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On 27 June 2001, the multi-purpose cargo vessel Mirande berthed at Geelong to load a cargo of barley. Whilst alongside, an AMSA surveyor on board for an inspection, formed the opinion that the master and chief engineer were under the influence of alcohol and formally advised them to cease drinking so that they would be fit at sailing time.

When the pilot boarded for departure, the ship's chief engineer came to the bridge and whilst not claiming to be the master, he did not deny it when addressed as 'captain'.

During the outward passage, as the ship passed to the south of beacon 12 in the South Channel, the ship's steering gear suffered a telemotor system failure. None of the bridge team, however, attempted to change to the other system or attempted to use the non-follow-up (NFU) steering controls. The ship's momentum and the proximity of the edge of the channel, however, resulted in the ship grounding within a few minutes.

After the grounding, the pilot asked for the master to return to the bridge but to no avail. Eventually the pilot was told that the master was 'drunk'. The water police were called and arrived on board at 0020 on 29 June 2001. They performed preliminary breath tests on the pilot and the first, second and third mates. The results of all these tests were negative. The police officer then went below and tested the master and chief engineer. The master's alcohol reading was 0.29 g/100 ml and that of the chief engineer was 0.13 g/100 ml.

The report conclusions include:

  • Two fuses in the primary side of the transformer supplying power to the port telemotor system blew, causing failure of the hand steering in use at the time.
  • The mate and third mate had inadequate knowledge of the bridge equipment, particularly the emergency steering change-over procedures.
  • The helmsman had received no training in emergency steering procedures.
  • Intoxication of the master resulted in his absence from the bridge at the time of the steering failure and hence in a lack of proper leadership, experience and knowledge at a time when it was particularly needed.

The report makes recommendations to:

  • The Australian Maritime Safety Authority should seek legislation to allow suitably trained AMSA marine surveyors, where there are reasonable grounds to do so, to measure blood alcohol levels of ship's crews using breath analysis equipment. A positive test of a master or key operational crew should provide grounds for detaining the vessel. AMSA should also advise the relevant harbour master or marine authority of the situation.
  • Ship's officers should ensure that they (and any appropriate seamen) are familiar with the emergency operation of all ship's equipment.

Conclusions

These conclusions identify the different factors contributing to the incident and should not be read as apportioning blame or liability to any particular individual or organisation.

Based on the evidence available, the following factors are considered to have contributed to the grounding:

  1. For a reason which could not be determined, two fuses in the primary side of the transformer supplying power to the port telemotor system blew, causing failure of the hand steering in use at the time.
  2. Fuses of the 'instantaneous' rather than the 'slow blow' type had been fitted.
  3. The mate and third mate had inadequate knowledge of the bridge equipment, particularly the emergency steering change-over procedures.
  4. The helmsman had received no training in emergency steering procedures.

Additionally but not directly:

  1. Intoxication of the master resulted in his absence from the bridge at the time of the steering failure and hence in a lack of proper leadership, experience and knowledge at a time when it was particularly needed.
  2. The pilot was licensed only to 9.5 m maximum draught, however the draught was 10.05 m and he had obtained a verbal exemption from his managing director to undertake this passage. He had been advised that the sailing draught would be 9.5 m by the ship's agent.
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 278KB]
 
 
 
 
General details
Date: 28 June 2001 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: N/A Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location:Port Phillip Bay  
State: Victoria  
Release date: 31 March 2003 Occurrence category: Incident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: None 
 
Vessel details
Vessel: Mirande 
Flag: Fr 
IMO: 6149689 
Type of Operation: Multi-purpose 
Damage to Vessel: Minor 
Departure point:Geelong
Destination:Ma Ta Phut, Thailand
 
 
 
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Last update 19 May 2016