Mode of transport
Occurence ID
20º 06.87' S
118º 31.03' E
Brief status
Occurrence status
Occurrence date
Report release date
Occurrence category
Port Hedland anchorage
Injury level

Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

At 1845 Western Standard Time (WST) on 16 December 2018, a large (292 m) Cape-size[1] bulk carrier at Port Hedland anchorage began weighing anchor to board a harbour pilot for berthing to load iron ore. The ship’s bridge team included its master, chief officer, third officer and helmsman. There was a fresh west-northwesterly wind gusting to about 30 knots at times.

A few minutes after 1900 the anchor was aweigh, and by 1909 had been heaved all the way in. At 1912, the master began using the main engine and rudder to turn the ship to port towards the pilot boarding ground. At that time, another large (289 m) bulk carrier was anchored 0.76 of a nautical mile (NM) upwind of the Cape-size bulk carrier on its starboard side (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Cape-size bulk carrier’s engine, rudder and relative position (1912 to 1923)

Figure 1: Cape-size bulk carrier’s engine, rudder and relative position (1912 to 1923). 
Source: Ship’s manager (Cape-size bulk carrier).
Note: Indicative diagram is not to scale nor aligned ‘north up’.


Source: Ship’s manager (Cape-size bulk carrier).

Note: Indicative diagram is not to scale nor aligned ‘north up’.

By 1917:30, the Cape-size bulk carrier had closed to 0.36 of a NM to the anchored bulk-carrier (indicating that the Cape-size bulk carrier’s average speed in the upwind direction was more than 4 knots). In an attempt to pass astern of the anchored ship, the master stopped the engine and then operated astern propulsion .

The Cape-size bulk carrier’s upwind movement continued, and by 1919 it had closed to within 0.20 of a NM of the anchored ship. The master now concluded that collision was certain so he operated ahead propulsion and used starboard rudder in an unsuccesful attempt to minimise collision damage.

At 1920, the Cape-size bulk carrier’s hull in way of its number 3 starboard water ballast tank collided with the bow of the anchored ship, near its stowed port anchor. The ballast tank was breached with a 12 m x 1 m tear in the shipside (Figure 2). The anchored ship’s port anchor and associated equipment were damaged.

Figure 2: Damage to Cape-size bulk carrier’s hull

Figure 2: Damage to Cape-size bulk carrier’s hull. Source: Ship’s manager (Cape-size bulk carrier).

Source: Ship’s manager (Cape-size bulk carrier).

After the collision, the master manoeuvred the Cape-size bulk carrier clear and re-anchored the ship. The collision damage rendered the ship unseaworthy and unfit for loading cargo.

The findings of an investigation by the Cape-size bulk carrier’s manager included the following.

  • The master’s actions to avoid the collision were inadequate and his ship handling was incorrect.
  • The passage plan was inadequate with respect to the transit to the pilot boarding ground, and took no account of weather conditions.
  • At no stage did anyone in the bridge team identify, assess or discuss the risk posed by the strong winds.
  • There was a failure of bridge team management (BTM),[2] including no independent checking of decisions, challenge and active participation by the chief officer and third officer who simply followed the master’s orders.

Safety action

The Cape-size bulk carrier’s manager advised that as a result of this occurrence, the following safety actions will be implemented:

  • The master is to undertake refresher ship handling training that will include manoeuvring in adverse weather conditions.
  • The chief officer and third officer will receive refresher BTM training.
  • Shipboard safety management system procedures for passage planning, pilot boarding and adverse weather will be amended to address learnings from this collision.

Safety message

This collision highlights the challenges of handling a large ship in ballast condition when there are strong winds, particularly when there is limited sea room. In this case, the wind rapidly took control of the ship once it was underway because the engine and rudder movements were late. When given, the engine and rudder orders were not appropriate, adequate, decisive and timely, and made recovery difficult.

The accident also shows that in addition to ship handling skills gained through experience and training, carefully planning all stages of a passage is vital to avoid high-risk navigation and to recover from a hazardous situation if one develops.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



  1. Dimensions larger than that allowable for transit of the Panama Canal.
  2. Bridge team management (BTM) is similar to bridge resource management (BRM), which can be defined as the effective management and use of all appropriate resources, including personnel and equipment, by a ship’s bridge team to complete its voyage safely and efficiently. Shipmasters and mates are required to undertake formal BTM or BRM training.
Vessel Details
Marine vehicle sector
Bulk carrier
Marine occurrence type
Marine Operation Type