Fast action in coal ship grounding

AN extensive response process was set in motion as soon as a coal ship ran aground in Gladstone Harbour on Friday night, a Marine Safety Queensland spokesman has told The Observer.

The Dumun, a 190-metre-long, 32,000-tonne vessel, was shifted to an “outside location” at about 4pm on Saturday after preliminary investigations at an emergence anchorage near South Trees Wharf.

The spokesman said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) were continuing investigations into the cause of the incident while the Dumun was moored at the outside site.

“Early indications are that a steerage problem has occurred,” he said.

“We will need to wait for the findings of the AMSA and ATSB (investigation).”

He said that although no serious consequences had emerged, MSQ intended to learn from the incident.

“We have around 4000 shipping movements each year and only a small number of incidents. And each one of those incidents, we learn from it.

“Ships are complex pieces of machinery,” he said.

“There are always little things that go wrong. That's the nature of the game. (But) it's very unusual to result in a grounding.”

The Dumun's MSQ-licensed pilot alerted MSQ of the problem at 5pm. The Dumun had been travelling with two tug boats, and another three were sent straight to the scene when the emergency occurred.

The coal ship was fully loaded when it ran aground about 1km north of South Trees Wharf at 5pm Friday. It was refloated at 6.30pm.

Nick Heath, Queensland manager of the World Wildlife Fund, said the incident was extremely concerning, in light of plans for much bigger ships that would arrive in the harbour for the planned LNG terminal.

“We welcome (Premier Anna Bligh's announcement of new GPS tracking technology for MSQ Gladstone), but we feel more should be done,” he said.

“Surely the LNG bonanza is big enough to pay for safety.”

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