Big Ships’ near miss off Rosebud Sparks Safety Probe into Port, Pilots

(Image Courtesy: Marine Traffic)

Victoria’s maritime safety regulator is investigating a potentially disastrous near miss in which two large commercial ships came close to colliding in Port Phillip Bay.

A 200-metre vessel laden with cars is believed to have veered off course and into the path of a 42,000-tonne container ship offshore from Rosebud in the early hours of August 12.

Maritime Safety Victoria is probing how the two ships came to be on a collision course.

Following the incident, Ports Minister Luke Donnellan asked the watchdog to investigate whether any regulatory changes ought to be made to improve safety in Victoria’s shipping channels.

Tracking of the incident on the Marine Traffic website indicates car-carrying vessel Tomar travelled off its line while rounding a bend in the shipping channel and into the path of CPO Jacksonville, a 260-metre container ship bound for the Port of Melbourne.

A source in the shipping industry said the vessels came within 50 seconds of colliding and were travelling towards each other at a closing speed of about 35 knots.

Rachel Gualano, Maritime Safety Victoria’s director of maritime safety, said the regulator would investigate the “close quarters incident” as well as those parties responsible for safety in port waters.

“These incidents are invariably complex, and involve a number of parties and contributing factors, so Maritime Safety Victoria is devoting the effort and time required to come to a considered solution as soon as possible,” Ms Gualano said.

The near miss has also exposed fierce competitive tension between the two sea-piloting companies that operate in and out of the Port of Melbourne.

Tomar was being piloted by a new sea piloting company called APG, which began operating in February.

CPO Jacksonville was being piloted by Port Phillip Sea Pilots, which has operated since 1839 and until this year had a monopoly on the Port of Melbourne’s sea piloting operations.

(Source: The Sunday Morning Herald, Australia)

Sea News, September 14