At 2156 on 26 May 2012, the bulk carrier Furness Melbourne and the yacht Riga II collided about 15 miles north of Bowen, Queensland.
Riga II was dismasted and its hull was damaged but no-one was seriously injured and the yacht was towed into Bowen by a volunteer marine rescue vessel.
Furness Melbourne was not damaged and, after rendering assistance to the yacht, continued its voyage.
What the ATSB found
The investigation found that a proper lookout was not being kept on board either vessel in the time leading up to the collision.
Furness Melbourne’s lookout had sighted Riga II’s starboard sidelight prior to collision but the officer of the watch made a series of assumptions based on limited information and concluded that the light was from a distant navigation buoy rather than another vessel that presented a risk of collision.
Riga II’s watchkeeper did not visually identify Furness Melbourne’s navigation lights in time to make an effective appraisal of the situation, did not set the yacht’s automatic identification system (AIS) unit on a range scale that would provide adequate warning of approaching vessels and when alerted by the AIS of the approaching ship, misinterpreted that information.
What's been done as a result
In the past 25 years, 60 collisions involving ships and small vessels have been reported to the ATSB and its predecessor, the Marine Incident Investigation Unit. Of these, 39 have been investigated.
The findings from these investigations have invariably included the failure of the watchkeepers on board one or both vessels to keep a proper lookout and the absence of early and appropriate action to avoid a collision.
The safety lessons from these investigations have been included in the published investigation reports. A number of safety bulletins that aim to highlight the risks and educate seafarers with regard to the similar contributing factors have also been published.
These documents and further safety related information can be downloaded at: www.atsb.gov.au/marine.aspx
This incident again emphasises the need for those charged with the navigation of vessels of all types and sizes to keep a proper lookout and to take early and appropriate action to avoid a collision in accordance with the international collision regulations.