Thousands line Mooloolaba Beach to welcome home around-the-world teenage yachtswoman Jessica Watson on her yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady, on Sunday.
Thousands line Mooloolaba Beach to welcome home around-the-world teenage yachtswoman Jessica Watson on her yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady, on Sunday. Brett Wortman

Carrier failed to help Jessica

THE final report into the collision between Jessica Watson's yacht and a bulk carrier has found fault on both sides.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) today released its final investigation report into the 9 September 2009 collision between the Australian registered yacht Ella's Pink Lady and the Hong Kong registered bulk carrier Silver Yang off Point Lookout, Queensland.

The ATSB investigation found that when the two vessels collided, neither the yacht's skipper nor the ship's watch keepers were keeping a proper lookout, nor were they appropriately using navigational aids to manage the risk of collision.

The investigation also found that following the collision, the ship's watch keeper did not offer to assist the yacht's skipper.

This is a problem that has also been highlighted by previous ATSB investigations.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Mr Martin Dolan said there are significant lessons to be learnt from this incident.

'This is a timely reminder that, under United Nations' conventions, ship operators have an obligation to offer assistance immediately to other vessels following a collision,' Mr Dolan said.

As a result of the ATSB investigation, the following key safety actions were taken:

  • Ella's Pink Lady's radar visibility was enhanced before its departure from Sydney.
  • The international requirement to render assistance following a collision has been highlighted.
  • Attention was drawn to the possible limits in the detectability of Class B AIS transmissions.
  • Silver Yang's operators intend to undertake further training of deck officers.

An executive summary of the report said the Silver Yang was fully loaded and en route to China, travelling at about 9knots.

"About five minutes before the collision, Ella’s Pink Lady‟s skipper checked for ships in the area, both visually and on the radar, before going to bed for a short sleep.

"However, she did not detect Silver Yang.

"Silver Yang's second mate and a seaman were on duty on the ship‟s bridge, but they did not see Ella’s Pink Lady until 2½ minutes before the collision.

"At first, they thought the light was a fishing vessel. However, it did not appear to be moving so they concluded
that it was a buoy.

"The second mate then altered the ship‟s heading by a few degrees to starboard in an attempt to give it some passing room.

"The second mate then realised that the light was not a buoy and that there was a risk of collision. He instructed the seaman to put the helm over to starboard 20°; then hard-tostarboard.

"However, this action did not prevent the two vessels from colliding.

"Ella’s Pink Lady was dismasted as a result of the collision. The skipper checked that her vessel was seaworthy and then called her parents who, in turn, notified the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC).

The RCC called the yacht and confirmed that the skipper did not require assistance. The RCC then reported the incident to the Queensland Police. Together, the RCC and the Queensland Police continued to monitor
the situation.

"About 20 minutes after the collision, Ella’s Pink Lady's skipper called Silver Yang on very high frequency (VHF) radio channel 16. The second mate eventually replied, and was able to ascertain that the yacht‟s skipper was safe, but he did not offer her any form of assistance.

"Ella’s Pink Lady's skipper was able to cut the headsail free, retrieve the mast, the mainsail and the rigging on board and motor the damaged yacht to Southport, Queensland, where it berthed at 1255.

"The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation found that Ella’s Pink Lady was not fitted with a passive radar reflector and that, at the time of the collision, neither the yacht's skipper nor the ship's watch keepers were keeping a proper lookout or appropriately using the available electronic aids to navigation to make a full appraisal of the situation and the risk of collision.

"The investigation also found that, following the collision, the Silver Yang's watch keeper did not initiate contact or offer any form of assistance to Ella Pink Lady's skipper and that when contacted by the yacht‟s skipper via VHF radio he could not be clearly understood.

The ATSB acknowledges the safety actions taken to address these safety issues and, in addition, has issued two safety advisory notices.

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