A bulk carrier touched bottom but avoided grounding, a transport safety bureau report found

TUGS returning to Newcastle Port after guiding a coal ship to sea prevented a second fully-laden coal ship from running aground in the harbour channel during an incident in February, 2017.

The bulk carrier Aquadiva touched the bottom of the channel near the Horse Shoe because an experienced harbour pilot, the ship’s master and bridge crew had different passage plans, an Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation found.

The problem was exacerbated because the harbour pilot was not using a computer-based portable pilot unit at the time because he wanted to practise his visual pilotage skills, the investigation found.

The 182,000 tonne, Greece-registered dry bulk carrier Aquadiva arrived at Kooragang number 8 berth for cargo loading on February 11, 2017, with a planned departure on the evening high tide the following day, bound for Thailand.

An experienced Newcastle harbour pilot boarded the ship on February 12 but his passage plan was not provided to the ship’s crew before he boarded.

“As a result, the harbour pilot’s passage plan was different to that of the ship’s bridge crew’s. This meant they did not share the same mental model of the planned passage, and were unable to actively monitor the progress of the ship or the actions of the pilot,” the ATSB investigation found.

The result was that a safety net was removed and “the pilotage was exposed to single-person errors”, the ATSB found.

“Such errors, when they occurred, were not identified or corrected.”

The errors led to insufficient rudder being applied shortly after 10pm to effectively turn the Aquadiva as it negotiated a bend known as the Horse Shoe.

The pilotage was exposed to single-person errors. Such errors, when they occurred, were not identified or corrected.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

The ship slewed or moved sideways towards the southern edge of the channel and within a few minutes it was over the limits of the marked navigation channel, the ATSB found.

“When insufficient rudder was applied and the ship did not turn as expected, no-one from the ship’s bridge crew challenged or intervened to draw this error to the attention of the harbour pilot. Consequently, the ship travelled too close to shallow water,” it found.

Tugs returning from the successful departure of an earlier carrier offered to assist the Aquadiva and the tugs assisting it in what the ATSB described as a “fortunate coincidence”.

“Their assistance aided in preventing the ship from grounding on the southern side of the Horse Shoe,” the ATSB said.

The harbour pilot had an extended period away from work after the incident and a subsequent medical assessment “concluded that the stress resulting from the occurrence compromised the pilot’s ability to safely return to pilotage work”, the report noted.

The Aquadiva was inspected at Thailand on March 12. There was no serious damage. A hydrographic survey of the Horse Shoe area found the ship touched bottom, although not enough to have stopped or grounded.

This story Tugs save the day in Newcastle Harbour incident first appeared on Newcastle Herald.