Inefficient Use Of Radar Resulted In Vessels Collision


A Transport Accident Investigation Commission report into the incident, said the master was distracted by passengers on the bridge and failed to alter course.


The bulk carrier was sailing from Lyttelton to Dunedin, with passengers “from the vessel’s charterer” on the bridge. The pilot had disembarked. The fishing vessel was heading towards Lyttelton with a deckhand keeping watch while the skipper rested.

The bulk carrier third officer saw the Leila Jo when it was 5.6 kilometres away, observed the two vessels being on a potential collision course, and told the ship’s master several times.

“But the bridge team did nothing about it until it was too late.”

The fishing vessel deckhand – the sole watch keeper – saw on radar a vessel leaving Lyttelton, but did not investigate further.

The bulk carrier and fishing vessel collided on a calm night when visibility was good. The people in charge of both vessels had low situational awareness about vessels in the area and the bulk carrier bridge team was distracted by passengers on the bridge.

The individuals operating each vessel were aware of the other and were on course for a head-on collision.  Both should have altered course to starboard to avoid collision, but neither did.

The bulk carrier and the fishing vessel crashed into each. Neither vessel was substantially damaged and no-one was seriously injured. 


During investigation it was found that 

  • They did not make the best use of radar, and did not switch the radar to long-range scanning for an early warning of the risk of collision.
  • The fishing vessel’s sole watch keeper did not use the vessel’s radar to plot the track of the bulk carrier and, in addition, should have known more about collision-prevention rules.
  • The investigator said bridge teams should minimise unnecessary distractions when navigating in pilotage waters, and it was a “needless risk” to have people on the bridge who were not essential.

Lesson learnt 

  • It recommended to enhance training system to upskill deckhands in watch keeping practices
  • When assessing or auditing operator safety systems for fishing vessels, review the adequacy of watch keeping training programmes.

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