Thursday 20th Sep, 2018

Absence of bridge lookout a factor in collision between box ship and trawler


ABSENCE of a bridge lookout has been noted as a factor in a collision involving a box ship and a trawler off Gabo Island in January this year.

The collision between Beijing Bridge and the trawler Saxon Onward occurred in the early hours of January 23. Saxon Onward was returning to Eden, New South Wales after fishing near Tasmania while Beijing Bridge was sailing for Melbourne from Taiwan.

A report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau noted Beijing Bridge’s officer of the watch was the sole lookout on the bridge during the 8pm – midnight watch on the night of the collision and for several weeks preceding the collision.

International regulations and Beijing Bridge’s company procedures specified the officer of the watch could be the sole lookout on the bridge only during daylight.

However, there was no lookout posted on the bridge during the 2000-2400 watch at the time of the collision and for several weeks before.

According to the ATSB, the ship’s master had the 2000-2400 lookout re-assigned to day work duties.

Safety and maintenance related deficiencies had been identified by an AMSA inspection during the ship’s port call at Melbourne in September 2017 with the ship being detained and issued with two prohibition notices.

AMSA inspections during subsequent port calls at Melbourne in November and December 2017 also resulted in the issuance of prohibition, improvement or direction notices to the ship.

Following the collision, AMSA detained the vessel in Melbourne based on several deficiencies such as the lack of a bridge lookout on the 2000-2400 watch.

“The absence of the bridge lookout during hours of darkness increased risk and was in contravention of company procedures and international regulations,” the ATSB reported.

Other findings were:

  • Beijing Bridge’s planned alteration of course, to starboard, done in advance of the passage plan waypoint, involved risk of collision with Saxon Onward
  • Beijing Bridge’s subsequent alteration of course was neither substantial nor made in good time
  • The action failed to remove the ship from the existing close quarters situation and increased the risk of a collision
  • Saxon Onward’s alteration of course to starboard was made in response to the head-on situation the watchkeeper assessed the vessel to be in.

Beijing Bridge’s management company, V.Ships (Germany), has told the ATSB it has taken the following safety actions including a circular requiring all managed ships to hold a safety meeting to discuss the collision and its lessons.


The circular required the ship’s masters and bridge watchkeeping personnel to review compliance with the COLREGs and the ship’s SMS with particular emphasis on the following:

The company also mandated that passage plan tracks were to be laid at least 10 nautical miles from the shoreline where possible.

As a result of this occurrence, Saxon Onward’s master has advised the ATSB that they have implemented a policy of maintaining two watchkeepers on duty in the wheelhouse in high traffic density areas.

“The ATSB continues to see collisions between small vessels and trading ships on the Australian coast with at least 65 such collisions reported and 39 investigated since 1990,” the Bureau reported.

“Safety investigations into several of these collisions have shown that taking early and effective avoiding action and the keeping of a proper lookout in accordance with the COLREGs could have prevented most of these collisions.”

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