Marine safety investigations & reports

Independent investigation into the drifting and subsequent grounding of the Sierra Leone registered products tanker Breakthrough at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands on 12 February 2008.

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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In September 2007, the crew of the Sierra Leone registered tanker Breakthrough joined the ship in China to prepare it for delivery to its new Nigerian owner. On 7 January 2008, the ship sailed from China.

On 20 January, the main engine began operating poorly after it was changed over from diesel to intermediate fuel oil because the fuel had not been effectively heated or purified. After drifting in the Indian Ocean for 21 days, the ship made its way to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. At 1350 on 11 February, Breakthrough anchored off Direction Island in the Cocos Island group.

On 12 February, the weather deteriorated significantly and the ship started to drag its anchor. The master ordered a second anchor let go and ran the main engine at dead slow ahead to ease the load on the anchor cables. The main engine could not provide sufficient thrust to prevent the anchors from dragging and, at 1545, Breakthrough‟s stern grounded, damaging the steering gear. On 13 February, the ship was successfully refloated and on 28 February, it was towed to Singapore for repairs.

The ATSB investigation found that the ship‟s owner did not implement an effective safety management system and did not provide sufficient support to the ship‟s master as required by the International Safety Management Code. The flag State‟s statutory certificates were issued by a management company solely with the purpose of allowing the ship to sail on an international voyage and did not appropriately represent the ship‟s ownership, operation or management. The ATSB also found that the ship‟s officers did not have adequate knowledge and experience to undertake the delivery voyage and did not effectively utilise their time before leaving China to familiarise themselves with the ship and its systems. The ATSB has issued one safety recommendation and three safety advisory notices.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 2.47MB]
General details
Date: 12 February 2008   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: +0630   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Cocos (Keeling) Island    
State: Western Australia    
Release date: 09 April 2010   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Breakthrough  
Flag SL  
IMO 9095723  
Type of operation Oil tanker  
Damage to vessel Minor  
Departure point China  
Departure time 7 January 2008  
Destination Lagos, Nigeria  
Last update 03 April 2020