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At about 0230 on 16 May 2007, the bulk carrier Ormiston sailed from Melbourne, Victoria, bound for Thevenard, South Australia. At about 0512, the ship rounded the Hovell Pile beacon and entered the South Channel in Port Phillip. At about 0521, Ormiston entered 'The Cut', the narrowest part of the channel, from the east making good about 15 knots.

At about 0230, the second mate on board the roll-on/roll-off general cargo ship Searoad Mersey contacted Point Lonsdale vessel traffic service (VTS) to provide an estimated time of arrival at the entrance to Port Phillip and was advised of the traffic movements within the port. At about 0420, Searoad Mersey's master, who also held a pilotage exemption for Port Phillip and had conducted over 1300 transits of the port, contacted VTS and received updated traffic information, including Ormiston's estimated movements.

At about 0435, Searoad Mersey passed Point Lonsdale lighthouse and entered Port Phillip. At about 0521, when the ship entered 'The Cut' from the west making good about 15 knots, the master had forgotten that Ormiston was approaching and did not see the approaching ship until immediately before the two ships passed. At about 0523, Searoad Mersey and Ormiston passed within 20 metres of each other in 'The Cut' at a combined speed of about 30 knots.

The ATSB investigation found that Searoad Mersey's bridge team members had not effectively implemented bridge resource management principles, were not keeping an adequate lookout and had lost situational awareness. The investigation also found that the ships did not communicate with each other until after the incident and that the Point Lonsdale VTS was not aware of the incident until after it had occurred.

The ATSB has issued four recommendations and one safety advisory notice to address the safety issues identified in the report.

Marine Recommendations

[ MR20080026 ] [ MR20080027 ] [ MR20080028 ] [ MR20080029 ]

Marine Safety Advisory Notices

[ MS20080026 ]

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[ Download PDF: 1.91MB]
General details
Date: 16 May 2007 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0530 (UTC+ 10 Hours)  
Location:South Channel Port Phillip Bay Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Victoria Occurrence type: Close quarters 
Release date: 23 July 2008  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel 1 details
Vessel: Searoad Mersey 
Flag: Aust 
IMO: 8914831 
Type of Operation: RO-RO 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Devonport
Vessel 2 details
Vessel: Ormiston 
Flag: Aust 
IMO: 7806661 
Type of Operation: Bulk carrier 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Melbourne
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Last update 23 May 2016