Failing To Maintain Proper Lookout Resulted in Collision



On 12 August 2017, the fishing vessel Mako departed San Remo, Victoria, bound for fishing grounds about 3 hours away. Once clear of Cape Woolamai, Mako maintained a steady course (210°) and speed to the south-west. At the same time, the container ship Glasgow Express was passing Cape Liptrap heading north-west. The ship was bound for Melbourne, Victoria, and was maintaining a steady course (299°) and speed. From about 2030 the vessels were on a collision course.

No avoiding action was taken by either vessel and, at about 2246, they collided.


Mako suffered significant damage from the collision. The stem post was broken and the forecastle space was opened to the outside. However, the boat had remained otherwise watertight and did not take on any water. In addition, about 1 m of the bow was stoved in, the sheer strake6 was marked and scratched for several metres along the port side, and the port stabiliser arm had broken away and the stabiliser arm mounting structure, including the boat’s main mast, had been pushed to starboard.


The ATSB found that a proper lookout by ‘all available means’ was not being maintained on either vessel.

Glasgow Express’s bridge team saw and monitored Mako visually from about 2200. However, a full appraisal of the situation using other instruments or means available on the bridge (such as radar) was not done. As a consequence, the situation was misinterpreted and the risk of collision was not identified. Therefore, no avoiding action was taken.

Prior to handing over the watch at 2230, Mako’s watchkeeper identified Glasgow Express by radar and visually. However, the information was misinterpreted and it was concluded that the Glasgow Express was passing clear, ahead of the fishing boat, and no avoiding action was taken. Then, after taking the watch, Mako’s second watchkeeper did not see the Glasgow Express until moments before the collision.

In addition, Mako was under way with all external lights on. This made the vessel more easily seen, but reduced the ability for Glasgow Express’s bridge team to accurately visually appraise the situation. The bright lights also reduced Mako’s watchkeeper’s night vision and ability to distinguish features beyond the glare of the lights.

The ATSB also noted that Mako, similar to other fishing vessels of this design, had a large fishing net winch drum mounted on deck forward of the wheelhouse. This winch drum restricts forward vision and may limit the ability to maintain a proper lookout unless accounted for in on-board procedures and training.

Safety actions

Whether or not the ATSB identifies safety issues in the course of an investigation, relevant organisations may proactively initiate safety action in order to reduce their safety risk. The ATSB has been advised of the following proactive safety action in response to this occurrence.

Hapag-Lloyd Ship Management

Hapag-Lloyd Ship Management, Glasgow Express’s operator, notified the ATSB that the incident had prompted a fleet-wide information program outlining details of the incident. The program emphasised that the officer of the watch was responsible for ensuring safe navigation at all times in accordance with collision regulations and using all available means.

In addition to this, voyage data recorder annual performance test procedures were amended to include ensuring the correct memory card is fitted.


The ATSB continues to see collisions between trading ships and small vessels. A common contributing factor has been the failure to use all available means to accurately appraise a situation and the risk of collision.

The ATSB reinforces to masters, owners, operators and skippers of all vessels the importance of a proper lookout by all available means including radar. Proper use of radar equipment including long range scanning and radar plotting allows for early detection, assessment and warning of vessels posing a risk of collision. This allows the watchkeeper sufficient time to take early and considered action to avoid collision in accordance with the International regulations for preventing collisions at sea, 1972 (as amended) (COLREGs).

Did you subscribe for our daily newsletter?

It’s Free! Click here to Subscribe!



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.