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At 0541 on 9 May 2008, the Antigua and Barbuda registered container ship Francoise Gilot grounded while transiting the South Channel, Port Phillip, Victoria. The ship had sailed from Melbourne earlier that morning and was departing Port Phillip bound for Sydney.

The ship grounded between beacons 18 and 20 of the South Channel during a starboard turn around the Hovell Pile beacon at the entrance to the Channel. The ship was refloated at 0755 using its main engine following a water ballast transfer operation and it then returned to Melbourne where an underwater inspection of its hull revealed that it had not been damaged during the grounding.

The ATSB investigation found that the helmsman had put the helm to starboard instead of port during the turn around the Hovell Pile beacon and that he was probably affected by fatigue at the time. The investigation also found that neither the Port Phillip pilot nor the ship's master discussed the allocation of roles and responsibilities of the bridge team before the ship left the berth. Consequently, no one was actively monitoring the helmsman's actions when he was executing the pilot's orders and as a result, the helmsman's error was not detected until it was too late to avoid the grounding.

The report identifies a number of safety issues and the ATSB acknowledges the safety actions which have been taken by Reederei Alnwick Harmstorf and the Port Phillip Sea Pilots to address them. The ATSB makes two recommendations associated with two outstanding safety issues.

Marine Recommendations [MO-2008-006-SR-021] [MO-2008-006-SR-022]

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