Marine safety investigations & reports

Grounding of the Liberian flag bulk carrier Pactrader

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On the morning of 26 February 2003, the Liberian flag bulk carrier, Pactrader, arrived at Thevenard from Lumut in Malaysia and embarked a pilot for berthing at Thevenard wharf. The ship entered the port and made fast, without incident, port-side-to the northern side of the wharf to load a cargo of gypsum for Auckland, New Zealand. The cargo was loaded as planned and completed during the early hours of 28 February. Pactrader remained alongside the wharf after completion of cargo operations waiting to sail on the high tide predicted for early the next morning, 1 March.

The pilot boarded Pactrader again at midnight, 28 February for the departure. The pilot and master discussed the outward pilotage and, at 0006 on 1 March, the ship commenced singling up the mooring lines as per the departure plan. A single tug was pushing up on the ship's starboard side at about midships. The wind was from about the south-south-west at 20 knots.1 The tide was setting to the north (the last of the flood) at up to 0.5 knots.

At 0012 the last mooring line was let go and the ship started moving from the berth. As the ship moved ahead it was set to starboard by the tide and wind and, a short timelater, it ran aground along its starboard side when its stern was just clear of the end of the wharf. It had only moved about one ship length ahead.

At 0224 on 4 March, the ship was refloated with the assistance of a salvage tug despatched from Adelaide, and returned alongside the wharf. Divers and a classification society surveyor inspected the ship and, when they indicated that there was no significant damage and that the ship was seaworthy, Pactrader was released by AMSA2 to continue its voyage to New Zealand.

The report's conclusions include:

  • The pilot did not make sufficient allowance for the significant forces acting on the beam of the ship at sailing time.
  • The tug was not used to best advantage given the prevailing circumstances.
  • The planning of the sailing operation was inadequate in that neither the master nor the pilot reviewed alternative strategies for unberthing, such as tug utilisation, engine movements and rudder usage.
  • The 'soft nose' at the end of the wharf discouraged the pilot from remaining close to the wharf during his outward movement.

The report makes a recommendation that:

Flinders Ports should undertake a risk assessment of the Port of Thevenard, taking into account the variable environmental factors, together with infrastructure and pilotage ongoing training experience issues.

1 1 knot = 1 nautical mile (1852 metres) per hour.
2 AMSA is the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 621KB]
General details
Date: 01 March 2003   Investigation status: Completed  
Location: Thevenard    
State: South Australia    
Release date: 30 June 2004   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Pactrader  
Flag Lib  
IMO 9157363  
Type of operation bulk carrier  
Damage to vessel Nil  
Departure point Lumut, Malaysia  
Destination Auckland, New Zealand  
Last update 19 May 2016