Final Report


On the afternoon of 20 June 2017, the fishing vessel Venessa S departed Port Stephens, New South Wales for Cabbage Tree Island. At approximately 1800, as Venessa S was approaching the island, the engine stopped and propulsion was lost. The skipper restarted the engine after several attempts however it was too late to avoid striking the bank. Venessa S struck the bank and started taking on water. The skipper and crew abandoned into a tender and Venessa S sank shortly after. The skipper and crew were rescued by the local water police about an hour later with no reported injuries.

The investigation found that:

  • A loss of propulsion occurred at a critical point in the approach to the anchor position, leading to the grounding and subsequent foundering of Venessa S.
  • While unlikely to have prevented the grounding, the anchor was ready and available for use at the time of the engine stoppage.
  • The cause of the engine stoppage, while undetermined, was likely temporary and not a catastrophic failure.
  • The safety induction provided to the new crew members before departing almost certainly contributed to a safe and successful abandoning of the vessel in darkness.

The effect of a loss of propulsion should be among the factors taken into account when planning approaches or manoeuvring close to navigational hazards. Mariners need to consider the possibility of machinery failure as an ever-present hazard and have appropriate contingency plans in place including the potential use of the anchor, especially if it is prepared and ready.

The safe abandoning of the vessel highlights the importance of a thorough safety induction for new crew. A well familiarised crew, proficient in the use of the ship’s lifesaving appliances, increases the likelihood of a successful abandoning after an accident.

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