Marine safety investigations & reports

SA Fortius contact with the number two coal loader at Pt Kembla

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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At 1148 on 15 April 2002, the Bahamas flag bulk carrier SA Fortius arrived off the New South Wales port of Port Kembla. The ship's deadweight was 88 674 tonnes at a mean draught of 10.655 m and it was trimmed almost 3 metres by the stern.

At 1300 the pilot embarked and the ship proceeded inwards to the number two coal loader, in the inner basin. The intention was for SA Fortius to enter the outer harbour, pass through the 'Cut' and turn to starboard through some 230 to berth, on a southerly heading, at the coal loader in the eastern basin. The wind speed was about ten knots from the south-southeast.

Approaching the breakwater, four tugs were made fast, one on a tow line through the forward centre Panama lead, two tugs alongside on the starboard side (one forward, the other aft) and a tug aft, on a line led through a stern Panama lead, on the port side.

The passage to the inner harbour apparently proceeded without incident. Once in the inner harbour the pilot initiated the turn to starboard utilising the ship's engine, rudder and the two forward tugs. The tug made fast through the forward Panama lead towed the bow to starboard, while the forward tug on the starboard side was used to slow the ship by coming astern.

After the ship had turned through some 90 it became apparent to the pilot that SA Fortius was experiencing a significant drift angle1. The master of the stern tug became concerned as SA Fortius's stern was closing on the multi-purpose berth and the dolphin at the southern end of the grain berth. He anticipated that the next order from the pilot would be for his tug to take the stern to port and he positioned the tug forward of the beam, between the ship and the dolphin.

The ship maintained headway, contacting the third fender from the southern end of number two coal berth on a heading of about 078 (T).

At, or immediately after, the time of contact the pilot ordered the two stern tugs to take the ship's stern to starboard. The stern tug however, had become temporarily trapped between the grain berth dolphin and the ship and sustained damage to its fenders forward and aft. At this time the tug positioned on the starboard side aft parted its tow line. The ship maintained a reduced rate of turn and cleared both the grain berth dolphin and number two coal berth, which had sustained damage in the initial contact.

SA Fortius was directed to berth at number one coal berth, where it completed mooring at 1523.

This report concludes that:

  1. SA Fortius developed a large drift angle, which resulted in the ship being too far to the north in the turning basin.
  2. The drift angle was not detected by the pilot.
  3. The engine was put to 'slow ahead' at about 1356, when the intended engine order was 'slow astern'.
  4. The pilot did not take sufficient notice of the tachometer and rudder angle indicator.
  5. The bridge team work was negligible, resulting in a breakdown of effective and safe communications between the pilot and the ship's staff on the bridge.
  6. The master did not take sufficient steps to ensure that he was aware of the intended manoeuvre in the inner basin.
  7. There was a lack of specific direction to the tugs by the pilot. He did not follow the 'Standard Orders to Tugs' issued by the Port Kembla Port Corporation in December 1999.

The report recommends that:

  • Pilots use the procedures as laid out in 'Standard Orders to Tugs' issued by the Port Kembla Port Corporation in December 1999, when directing tug manoeuvres.
  • Port authorities, where not otherwise equipped, should consider the introduction of an electronic aid, with track prediction capability, to assist pilots with the berthing of ships.
  • All ports should consider publishing their general port entry and berthing manoeuvre plans on the Internet. This would provide port users with direct access to port information (or indirect access through ship's agents), permitting masters and officers to plan passages as recommended in the International Chamber of Shipping's 'Bridge Procedures Guide'.
  • Periodic meetings between pilots and tug masters be reintroduced at an operational level.
  • When piloting ships, pilots should consider means by which they can verify all orders given by them.

1 With the bridge aft, drift angle is the angle between the ship's heading and the direction in which the ship's bridge is travelling. Rowe, R.W. (1996) The Shiphandler's Guide, Nautical Institute.

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General details
Date: 15 April 2002   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: N/A    
Location: Port Kembla    
State: New South Wales    
Release date: 18 March 2003   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel SA Fortius  
Flag Bah  
IMO 9221217  
Type of operation Bulk carrier  
Damage to vessel Nil  
Departure point Newcastle, NSW  
Destination Port Kembla, NSW  
Last update 19 May 2016