Marine safety investigations & reports

Foundering of the general cargo ship Tycoon, Christmas Island, 8 January 2012

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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What happened

On the morning of 8 January 2012, one of the permanent mooring lines holding the general cargo ship Tycoon in position in the inner moorings at Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island, came free from its anchor. As a result, the ship moved forward and closer to the nearby terminal rock face, eventually making contact with the rock face as the weather and sea conditions deteriorated.

Despite attempts to move it away, Tycoon continued to pound against the rock face. Eventually, the ship’s engine room began to flood through a tear in the hull. Shortly afterwards, the crew safely abandoned the ship.

At about 1100 on 9 January, Tycoon suffered a catastrophic failure of its hull and the contents of the ship’s number two cargo hold, about 260 tonnes of bagged phosphate, were exposed to the sea. The ship continued to be pounded by the sea and swell and, over the following months, it broke up under the action of the waves. On 14 May, salvors were appointed and by 26 July the wreck had been removed from Flying Fish Cove.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the shackle connecting the port’s cantilever mooring line to its anchor chain failed and that Tycoon’s master did not advise shore authorities of his concern regarding the deteriorating conditions or that the cantilever mooring line had come free. He also did not make proper use of the ship’s main engine or mooring lines to attempt to keep the ship in position after the mooring line came free.

In addition, it was found that there had been no risk assessment undertaken by successive port managers with regard to the use of the inner moorings and that there was little guidance provided to the masters of ships intending to moor in Flying Fish Cove. Furthermore, the managers of the port had not implemented an effective inspection and maintenance program and therefore were not aware of the deteriorated condition of the aft mooring line shackle.

What's been done as a result

The port operator has started to fly diving contractors into Christmas Island to complete the annual dive inspection and has commenced replacing and upgrading the mooring equipment. They are also developing a Port Handbook which will be provided to the master of each ship and are facilitating safety training workshops that will be a forum through which the risks posed to the port and its operations can be assessed.

Safety message

Those responsible for the management and operation of a port should consider all the risks associated with the operations carried out within the port. As a result, there should be appropriate procedures and contingency plans in place to deal with foreseeable emergencies and effective maintenance and inspection regimes that ensure the good order of equipment and facilities.

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Download Preliminary Report
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Preliminary report released 2 February 2012

On 6 January 2012, the Panama registered general cargo ship Tycoon was moored in Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island. The ship remained at the moorings over the following days while cargo operations were carried out.

In the early hours of 8 January, the wind speed and sea state increased and the moorings failed to keep Tycoon in position. At about 0620, the ship made contact with the adjacent rock-face and shore crane pylon. Despite several attempts to move Tycoon away, it continued to pound against the rock-face and pylon and the engine room began flooding through a tear in the hull.

At about 0930, the decision was made to abandon ship. At 1030, the crew climbed down the ship's accommodation ladder one at a time and jumped into the sea. From there, they were recovered by the crews of three Royal Australian Navy rigid hull inflatable boats which were standing by to assist.

At about 1100 on 9 January, the ship suffered a catastrophic failure of its hull. The contents of the number two hold were exposed to the sea. Damage to the hull near the engine room had already allowed oil and other pollutants to be washed into the sea.

The ATSB is continuing its investigation into the incident and a draft investigation report will be complied. When the draft investigation report is approved for release, it will be forwarded to directly involved parties for comment.

Download Preliminary Report
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Alternate: [Download  DOC: 7.49MB]
General details
Date: 08 January 2012   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0620 (UTC+7)    
Location   (show map): Christmas Island   Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation  
State: External Territory    
Release date: 23 May 2013    
Report status: Final   Occurrence category: Incident  
  Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Tycoon  
Flag Panama  
IMO 8304220  
Type of operation General cargo ship  
Damage to vessel Destroyed  
Last update 14 November 2018