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What happened

On 17 August 2014, Grand Pioneer and AAL Fremantle broke away from their berths when a thunderstorm passed across the Port of Fremantle. A bollard on the wharf holding both ships’ stern lines failed, most likely after Grand Pioneer’s vehicle ramp contacted it. AAL Fremantle contacted a ship at an adjacent berth, and parts of the Fremantle Rail Bridge nearby.

The ships were berthed again with tug assistance. The ships had suffered minor damage. The rail bridge, however, was closed for 3 weeks for inspection and repairs to track alignment and other non-structural damage.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB investigation concluded that Grand Pioneer moved slightly as the tension in its mooring lines increased, in response to the high winds associated with the passing thunderstorm. It is likely that its vehicle ramp then made contact with the bollard that held the stern lines of both ships. As a result of the contact, the bollard broke away from the wharf.

The investigation found that Fremantle Port Authority’s (Fremantle Ports) examination of the risks associated with a ship contacting the rail bridge contained limited analysis on keeping ships alongside in adverse weather, particularly at berths 11 and 12 where the wind is predominantly on ships’ beams. There was also no analysis of the means to assist a ship that got close to Wongara Shoal and the rail bridge.

The ATSB also found that Fremantle Ports’ adverse weather procedures were triggered only by specific Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) forecast categories and terms. There was no guidance for vessel traffic service (VTS) officers to take action based on actual weather conditions, or certain other severe weather terms used in BoM forecasts.

Another investigation finding was that BoM’s marine forecast at the time of the incident did not describe expected wind speeds using recognised marine terms, such as ‘gale force’. Further, the forecast title understated the wind speeds expected.

What's been done as a result

Fremantle Ports has put into service 12 ‘shore tension’ devices in the inner harbour. These devices maintain a constant tension in a mooring line to assist keeping a ship alongside its berth.

The port has subscribed to a customized weather prediction service for its area, and upgraded its weather station and VTS equipment to enhance monitoring. The VTS officers have been trained to use the new and upgraded equipment. The port has updated its ship weather warnings to include a broader range of meteorological terms and descriptions.

Fremantle Ports has also revised its weather warning distribution list to include the manager of the rail bridge, the Public Transport Authority (PTA). The port and the PTA have established direct, high level, points of contact with communication processes in place to manage any emergencies that could involve the rail bridge.

The BoM safety action includes undertaking to use standard terminology in marine forecasts and implementing a formal process to consult stakeholders to better identify and meet their needs.

Safety message

When analysing the risks to a port’s operation, its operator needs to consider the risk controls to avoid a serious incident as well as the recovery controls in case an incident does occur.

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The occurrence




Safety issues and actions

Sources and submissions


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Preliminary report released 21 October 2014

What happened

On the afternoon of 17 August 2014, the Grand Pioneer and AAL Fremantle were berthed, stern to stern at North Quay berths 11 and 12 respectively, in the port of Fremantle.

At about 2200, while both ships were discharging cargo, a storm front passed over Fremantle bringing with it a rapid increase in wind speed and gusting to about 55 knots. Both ships' sterns broke away from the berth and they swung bow to the wind. AAL Fremantle’s starboard side subsequently made contact with the Parmelia I and the Fremantle Rail Bridge.

The Parmelia I, Grand Pioneer and AAL Fremantle suffered minor damage.

A stanchion supporting the catenary wire for the 25 kV AC electrified train network on the rail bridge was destroyed along with large sections of temporary scaffolding along the side of and under the bridge. The track alignment was also disturbed. The bridge was closed to rail traffic until repairs could be undertaken and the bridge deemed safe.

By about 0300 both ships were safely berthed.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB’s initial analysis of the incident indicates that a bollard, with all of AAL Fremantle’s and two of Grand Pioneer’s five stern lines, failed. This allowed the stern of AAL Fremantle to swing to starboard. The loss of the stern lines increased the tension on Grand Pioneer’s remaining stern lines, which were not able to hold. Grand Pioneer’s stern then swung to port.

Investigation direction

The investigation is ongoing and will focus on the:

  • bollard failure mechanism
  • preparedness of the ships leading up to the incident
  • port authority procedures to avoid weather related incidents
  • effect of weather on water levels in the port and the movement of ships
  • risk analysis and management in relation to relevant marine and rail infrastructure
  • risk management and emergency response between relevant agencies.


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Safety issues

MO-2014-009-SI-01 - MO-2014-009-SI-02 - MO-2014-009-SI-03 - MO-2014-009-SI-04 -  

Fremantle Ports’ risk assessment

Fremantle Ports’ assessment of risks associated with a ship contacting the Fremantle Rail Bridge as a result of a breakaway, particularly from berths 11 and 12, was limited. Preventing a breakaway from berths where the wind was likely to be on a ship’s beam had not been considered. Similarly, the impediments to assisting a ship near Wongara Shoal after a breakaway had not been assessed.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-009-SI-01
Who it affects:All users of Fremantle’s Inner Harbour, including the Fremantle Rail Bridge
Status:Adequately addressed


Bureau of Meteorology weather warnings

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) marine forecast title of ‘strong wind warning’ understated the ‘damaging winds’ expected during the ‘severe thunderstorm’. The forecast did not use recognised marine weather terms for wind speed, such as ‘gale force’.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-009-SI-02
Who it affects:Port, boat and ship operators in Australian coastal waters
Status:Adequately addressed


Weather event management

Fremantle Ports’ procedures for adverse weather were not adequate for weather that could reasonably be expected to occur. Some procedures could not be reasonably implemented and other were not monitored for compliance.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-009-SI-03
Who it affects:All ships berthed in Fremantle’s Inner Harbour
Status:Adequately addressed


Forecast terminology

Fremantle Ports’ staff did not understand the significance of some wind and weather terminology used in the BoM forecast. Consequently, port procedures triggered by a BoM ‘gale’ or ‘severe weather’ warning such as preparing the tugs and calling the harbour master were not followed.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-009-SI-04
Who it affects:Port and ship operators
Status:Adequately addressed

General details
Date: 17 August 2014 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 2200 UTC +8  
Location   (show map):Fremantle Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Western Australia Occurrence type: Contact 
Release date: 04 May 2016  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel 1 details
Operator: Cido Shipping 
Vessel: Grand Pioneer 
Flag: Panama 
IMO: 9247572 
Sector: Other 
Type of Operation: Mooring 
Damage to Vessel: Minor 
Destination:Berthed at Fremantle
Vessel 2 details
Operator: Columbia Ship Management 
Vessel: AAL Fremantle 
Flag: Singapore 
IMO: 9521095 
Sector: Other 
Type of Operation: Mooring 
Damage to Vessel: Minor 
Destination:Berthed at Fremantle
Vessel 3 details
Vessel: Parmelia I 
Flag: Australia 
IMO: 9565168 
Sector: Tanker 
Type of Operation: Mooring 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Destination:Berthed at Fremantle
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Last update 14 November 2018