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Mooring incident prompts ship safety improvements

The management company of the Spirit of Tasmania II has implemented a raft of changes in response to an ATSB investigation into a mooring incident at Station Pier, Melbourne, in January 2016.

Photograph showing damaged upper vehicle ramp near Spirit of Tasmania II’s bow. Source: Debbie Storz via www.abc.net.au/new

The changes will ensure that weather monitoring and mooring systems and procedures are regularly checked and verified for changing weather conditions. These will reduce the safety risks for ships with large numbers of passengers.

Spirit of Tasmania II was loading cargo, vehicles and passengers at Station Pier on 13 January 2016 when, just before 6pm, strong wind gusts blew the ship away from the wharf.

After breaking away, the stern swung around until the ship was 90 degrees to the wharf, parallel to nearby Port Melbourne Beach with a possibility of grounding.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood says the investigation found a band of severe thunderstorms passed across the location of Spirit of Tasmania II, with little warning.

“With the ship’s bridge unattended during the port stay, none of its crew saw indicators of the approaching storm until just before the breakaway,” Mr Hood said.

“The crew responded swiftly, controlling the ship’s movement using its thrusters and main propulsion machinery. With two tugs assisting, it was returned to the wharf just after 7pm.”

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.

Since the incident, the ship’s managers, TT-Line Company, advised the ATSB of changes to shipboard weather monitoring and notification arrangements along with changes to heavy weather and mooring procedures.

Mr Hood welcomed the changes including weather triggers for increased shipboard readiness and immediate notification of weather warnings.

“In addition, there will be access to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) website from the bridge, changes to on-board wind speed alarm settings and a requirement for all mooring lines to be held on the winch brakes,” he said.

“TT-Line also engaged external marine consultants to examine and recommend any alterations to berthing arrangements and infrastructure at Station Pier.”

The ATSB has issued one recommendation to TT-Line to complete safety action to adequately address the safety issue with respect to mooring at Station Pier. TT-Line has 90 days to respond to the ATSB’s safety recommendation.

Further, 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.

Also, the BoM has advised the ATSB that it continues to upgrade its marine weather services, including a one-stop webpage on its website for improved education, information and accessibility to marine and ocean services.

Read the investigation report MO-2016-001

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Last update 11 May 2017

Investigation report

Breakaway of 'Spirit of Tasmania II' at Station Pier, Port Melbourne, Victoria on 13 January 2016