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At about 0310 on 25 August 2007, while the research ship Geosounder was about 185 miles northeast of Cairns, Australia, en route from New Zealand to Singapore, an off-duty integrated rating (IR) who was skylarking on deck while under the influence of alcohol fell overboard. The crew immediately threw lifebuoys into the water, stopped the ship and launched the fast rescue craft (FRC) but the IR could not be located. While launching the FRC to search for the missing man, another IR broke his ankle.

After a search involving two ships and an aircraft, both lifebuoys were recovered but no sign of the missing seaman was found. In consultation with RCC, the master called off the search at 1835 when it became too dark to continue. The master's decisions to call off the search and take the injured crew member to Cairns for treatment were reasonable considering the very low probability of finding the missing man alive if the search was resumed on 26 August.

The ATSB found that while the Geoshipping safety management system included a 'no alcohol' policy, it was not consistently and effectively implemented on board the ship. The ATSB also found that the haste of the crew to launch the fast rescue craft to locate the missing man overboard resulted in the master and crew performing tasks that they had not regularly practiced and they did not plan or execute their tasks effectively. Consequently, the chief mate drove the fast rescue craft ahead before it had been released from its hoisting wire.

The ATSB has been advised that safety actions have been taken by DOF Subsea and DOF Management (formerly Geoshipping) to address the safety issues identified in the report. The report issues no recommendations or safety advisory notices.

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