Maintaining a proper lookout absolutely essential, Australian investigation concludes

A collision between bulk carrier Accolade II (IMO 8012425) and fishing vessel Sandgroper off Port Adelaide. South Australia, reaffirmed how important it was that watchkeepers use all available means to maintain a proper lookout, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said in a report that investigated the accident.

At about 04:38 local time on February 29th 2020, in darkness and clear visibility, the Sandgroper, which was inbound, collided with the outbound self-discharging bulk carrier Accolade II, off the entrance to Port Adelaide, South Australia. The collision occurred within port limits, shortly after Accolade II had exited the Port Adelaide channel. It resulted in significant structural damage to Sandgroper and minor damage to Accolade II. There were no injuries reported on either vessel.

The Sandgroper sustained significant structural damage to its starboard bow, while Accolade II sustained minor damage to its deck structures and railings on the starboard side. The anchor of the Sandgroper lodged itself into Accolade II’s deck railings.

The ATSB found that a proper lookout using all available means was not being maintained on board either vessel in the time leading up to the collision. Consequently, neither vessel was aware of the risk of the collision posed by the other until shortly before the collision when it was too late to take effective avoiding action.

Accolade II’s bridge team did not have a complete appreciation of the traffic situation, or of the risk of collision outside the port channel, before the ship exited the channel. In particular, ATSB found that effective use was not made of radar, while a dedicated look-out was not posted in darkness.

Sandgroper’s skipper initially sighted the Accolade II while the ship was still in the channel. However, a proper look-out was not subsequently maintained using all available means, including radar and radio. As a result, Sandgroper’s skipper was not aware that Accolade II had exited the port channel; neither did he realize that a close-quarters situation with the ship was developing.

Sandgroper was not equipped with, nor required to be equipped with, an AIS transceiver. ATSB said that, had one been fitted, it would have improved the vessel’s detectability. That in turn would have increased the chances that the vessel was detected by Accolade II’s bridge team in sufficient time to avoid collision.

Following the incident the Sandgroper was fitted with an AIS transceiver.

Accolade II’s managers (Inco Ships) advised that a navigational audit of the ship’s operations was conducted, which resulted in several recommendations to improve the ship’s bridge resource management practices.

ATSB Director Transport Safety Stuart Macleod said that “in the time leading up to the collision a proper lookout using all available means was not being maintained on board either vessel. Consequently, neither was aware of the risk of the collision posed by the other, until shortly before the collision, when it was too late to take effective avoiding action.”

Macleod noted the navigation bridge team onboard Accolade II did not have a complete “appreciation” of the traffic situation nor the risk of collision outside the port channel before they exited the channel prior to the collision.

“In particular, effective use was not made of the ship’s radar and a dedicated lookout was not posted in darkness,” he said.

“And while Sandgroper’s skipper did initially sight Accolade II while it was still in the channel, a proper lookout was not subsequently maintained using all available means, including radar and monitoring the port’s working channel on the radio,” he said.

Macleod warned that “collisions between trading ships and small vessels continue to occur around the Australian coast, and the safety of fishers and people in small boats continues to be of real concern to the ATSB”.

He said that “ATSB investigations have consistently shown that keeping a proper lookout by all available means – including radar, radio, and automatic identification system (AIS) transceiver – in accordance with the collision regulations, could have prevented most of these collisions.”

https://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2020/mair/350-mo-2020-001/