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What happened

On the afternoon of 13 January 2016, the roll-on/roll-off passenger ship Spirit of Tasmania II was loading cargo, vehicles and passengers at Station Pier, Melbourne. At 1752, strong wind gusts blew the ship off the wharf and all but two of the ship’s mooring lines (on the bow) parted. After breaking away, the stern swung around until the ship was 90 degrees to the wharf, parallel to nearby Port Melbourne Beach and in danger of grounding. While waiting for tugs to assist, the ship’s propulsion and thrusters were used to maintain its position and prevent grounding. By 1905, the ship was back alongside the wharf, assisted by two tugs.

The ship suffered minor damage to its lower bow ramp and bow doors. Shore infrastructure suffered extensive damage to the elevated roadway and ramp arrangement on the wharf and minor damage to wharf structures. No one was injured.

What the ATSB found

During the afternoon of 13 January, a band of severe thunderstorms passed across the location of Spirit of Tasmania II, with little warning. As the ship’s bridge was unattended throughout the port stay, none of its crew saw indicators of the approaching storm until just before the breakaway.

The ship’s crew responded swiftly. The bridge was manned and machinery was operational by the time the ship had turned 90 degrees to the wharf. The ship’s movement was then controlled using its thrusters and main propulsion until, with tug assistance, it was returned to the wharf.

What's been done as a result

The ship’s managers, TT-Line Company, advised the ATSB that it has implemented immediate changes to shipboard weather monitoring and notification arrangements along with changes to heavy weather and mooring procedures. These changes include: weather triggers for increased shipboard readiness; immediate notification of weather warnings; access to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) website from the bridge; changes to the wind speed alarm settings and; requiring all mooring lines to be held on the winch brakes.

TT-Line also engaged external marine consultants to complete extensive investigations and analyses into the mooring requirements and design for Station Pier. The consultants have completed mathematical modelling and incident replication simulations. Subsequent analyses will be used to identify and define operational parameters and recommend any alterations to berthing arrangements and infrastructure. The ATSB has issued one recommendation to TT-Line to complete safety action to adequately address the safety issue with respect to moorings.

The Victorian Ports Corporation (Melbourne) advised the ATSB that Melbourne vessel traffic service will broadcast BoM weather warnings on VHF channel 12. All masters of ships in port waters, including at berth or anchorage, are to ensure a listening watch is maintained at all times.

The BoM advised the ATSB that in addition to verifying the subscription service with the Victorian Ports Corporation (Melbourne) it continues to upgrade its marine weather services. This includes a one-stop webpage on its website for improved education, information and accessibility to marine and ocean services.

Safety message

All ships, especially those with high windage, are prone to breaking away from moorings during short-term events such as thunderstorms and squalls. The risks this presents to ships with large numbers of people on board mean that weather monitoring, mooring systems and procedures need to be regularly checked and verified for changing weather conditions.

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The occurrence

Context

Safety analysis

Findings

Safety issues and actions

Sources and submissions

Appendices

 
 
 

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Preliminary report published: 18 April 2016

The information contained in this Preliminary report is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is derived from the ongoing investigation of the occurrence. Readers are cautioned that new evidence will become available as the investigation progresses that will enhance the ATSB's understanding of the accident as outlined in this Preliminary report. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this report.

What happened

On the afternoon of 13 January 2016, the roll-on roll-off ship Spirit of Tasmania II was loading passengers and vehicles in Melbourne. At 1752, strong wind gusts blew the ship off the wharf and all but one of the ship’s mooring lines (on the bow) parted. As it broke away, the stern swung around until the ship was 90 degrees to the wharf and parallel to the nearby public beach, in danger of grounding. Action was taken to arrest the swing and the ship was returned to the wharf without touching bottom.

Wharf cargo and vehicle loading infrastructure was seriously damaged. The ship suffered minor bow damage. No one was injured.

What the ATSB has found so far

Based on the preliminary information that ATSB obtained, it was apparent that a band of severe thunderstorms passed across the area, including the location of Spirit of Tasmania II, with comparatively little notice. As the ship’s bridge was unattended throughout the port stay, none of the crew saw indicators of an approaching storm until immediately before the breakaway.

The ship’s crew responded swiftly. The bridge was manned and machinery was operational by the time the ship had turned 90 degrees to the wharf. The ship’s movement was then controlled using its thrusters and propulsion until it could be turned, with the assistance of a harbour tug, away from the beach and returned to the wharf.

Investigation direction

The investigation is ongoing and will focus on weather events in the Port of Melbourne area, and how the port and port users prepare for such events. This will include:

  • The ship’s managers’ (TT Line Company) preparations and procedures
  • Spirit of Tasmania II preparations and procedures for port stays and weather events, including mooring arrangements and equipment
  • Port of Melbourne procedures and actions
  • Bureau of Meteorology weather forecasting and warnings
  • distribution of weather information and warnings to and amongst port users.
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The occurrence

Context

Sources and submissions

 

Safety issues

MO-2016-001-SI-01 - MO-2016-001-SI-02 - MO-2016-001-SI-03 -  

TT-Line Company procedures

The adverse weather procedures for TT-Line Company ships when alongside did not take into account all the necessary factors to provide effective defences against significant, short-term weather events such as thunderstorms and squalls.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2016-001-SI-01
Who it affects:All ship masters and deck officers
Status:Adequately addressed


 

Melbourne vessel traffic service procedures

The Port of Melbourne vessel traffic service (VTS) procedures for adverse weather were not comprehensive and, hence, its response on 13 January was only partially effective. One important consequence was that VTS’s advance warning of storm force winds did not reach all relevant parties, including Spirit of Tasmania II’s master.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2016-001-SI-02
Who it affects:Port of Melbourne vessel traffic service and all users of the port
Status:Adequately addressed


 

Mooring at Station Pier

While TT-Line Company’s standard mooring line pattern for ships at Station Pier had been successfully used for many years, the breakaway indicated the risk could have been further reduced to better prepare for such unusual circumstances.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2016-001-SI-03
Who it affects:All ship masters and deck officers
Status:Partially addressed

 
General details
Date: 13 January 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 17:50 EDST (UTC +11) Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):Station Pier, Port Melbourne  
State: Victoria  
Release date: 11 May 2017 Occurrence category: Incident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: None 
 
Vessel details
Operator: TT Line Company 
Vessel: Spirit of Tasmania II 
Flag: Australia 
IMO: 9158434 
Sector: Passenger 
Type of Operation: Berthed 
Damage to Vessel: Minor 
Departure point:Devonport, Tasmania
Destination:Station Pier in the Port of Melbourne, Victoria
 
 
 
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Last update 11 May 2017