New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission releases report on collision between fishing vessel, containership in Bay of Plenty

Photo: TAIC

The New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has published an investigation report into a collision between a fishing vessel and a containership that occurred on July 28, 2021.

On the said date, about 84 nautical miles northeast of Tauranga, Bay of Plenty coast, the fishing vessel Commission collided with the stationary container vessel Kota Lembah. Commission was motoring and Kota Lembah was drifting while waiting for a berth at Port of Auckland.

Kota Lembah suffered scraping along its hull near the bow and Commission suffered damage to its stabiliser arm and wheelhouse. Neither vessel’s hull was breached and nobody was injured.

Why it happened

The TAIC said the key circumstances that led to this accident were poor watchkeeping, non-adherence to collision prevention rules (COLREGS) and fatigue.

  • The watchkeeping standards on both vessels fell well short of good industry practice. On Commission, the crew had detected Kota Lembah on radar but they did not look out for it or plot it on radar. Nobody was on watch at the time of the collision.
  • On Kota Lembah, the bridge team had seen and were plotting Commission on radar. Collision prevention rules required Kota Lembah to give way to Commission, but it did not do so.
  • It was also about as likely as not that Commission’s skipper was suffering from the effects of fatigue at the time.


The TAIC has made three new recommendations – two to Oceanic Fishing (operator of Commission), and one to Pacific International Lines (owners of Kota Lembah)

  • Watchkeeping: that Oceanic Fishing enhance its training system to upskill deckhands in watchkeeping to meet the minimum requirements of Maritime Rules Part 31. (Recommendation 002/22).
  • Fatigue: that Oceanic Fishing emplace fatigue management policies, procedures, and compliance on their vessels. (Recommendation 003/22)
  • Collision regulations: That Pacific International Lines tells its fleet staff about the findings and lessons of this report to its fleet and audit the navigational practices of its fleet for compliance with the COLREGS. (Recommendation 004/22)

An existing TAIC recommendation addresses the safety issue of training for good watchkeeping. Some owners of the New Zealand under-24-metre fishing fleet appear to be not fully adhering to the requirement for fishing deckhands to be sufficiently trained in watchkeeping.

In May 2021, TAIC recommended that Maritime NZ review the adequacy of watchkeeping training programmes for unqualified deckhands to meet good industry practice and comply with Maritime Rules Part 31 (Recommendation 003/21). TAIC’s final report on the Kota LembahCommission collision details Maritime NZ’s positive response to this earlier recommendation.

What can be learned

The TAIC said adhering to the rules for preventing collisions at sea is the best defence against collision. When one vessel deviates from these rules, the risk of collision will be significantly higher. When two vessels deviate from them, a collision becomes almost inevitable.

Fatigue adversely affects human performance and is known to contribute to accidents. Vessels must be resourced so that fatigue can be appropriately managed.

Watchkeeping: Non-compliance with standards for achieving navigation safety is also known to contribute to accidents. Anyone involved in keeping a navigational watch needs to be knowledgeable about the collision prevention rules.

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