ATSB to Investigate Coastal Pilotage Operations

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

16 December 2010

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) will undertake a systemic safey investigation into Queensland's coastal pilotage operations.  This follows the ATSB's investigation into the 7 February 2009 grounding of the tanker Atlantic Blue in the Torres Strait.

ATSB Chief Commissioner, Mr Martin Dolan, said the ATSB decided to conduct this broader safety investigation to address information that came to light during the Atlantic Blue investigation as well as earlier, similar investigations.

"The Atlantic Blue investigation is one in a number of cases where we received reports from coastal pilots raising concerns about the safety of coastal pilotage operations," Mr Dolan said.

"Our systemic safety investigation will take around 12 months to complete.  During this time, we'll gather information from pilots, pilotage providers, regulators and other stakeholders and analyse that information to see if any steps can be taken to enhance the safety of the pilotage system."

The investigation into the grounding found that Atlantic Blue's bridge team had not effectively monitored the ship's progress in the shipping route.  In particular, there was no allowance for the prevailing strong wind and tidal stream.  This resulted in the ship deviating from its planned track.  Subsequent adjustments to the course were inadequate and could not prevent it grounding off Kirkcalkie Reef.

Atlantic Blue's hull remained intact, there was no pollution and the ship refloated on the next flood tide.  Following an inspection, authorities permitted the ship to continue its voyage to Townsville.

The investigation report, released today, identifies safey issues in relation to the:

  • shipboard safety management system procedures for passage planning
  • assessment and audit system to check how coastal pilots carry out pilotages
  • traffic monitoring system of the coastal vessel traffic service.

The relevant parties have taken or have proposed safety actions to address all of these issues.