NZ TAIC publishes report on 2020 vessel collision off Lyttelton

Rose Harmony (Photo: TAIC/John Bell)

The New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has published its investigation report on the 2020 collision between the bulk carrier Rose Harmony and the fishing vessel Leila Jo off Lyttelton Harbour.

The TAIC said that on the evening (local time) of January 12, 2020, the visibility in Whakaraupo/Lyttelton Harbour was good, there was a light south-westerly wind of just under 10 knots, and the tidal stream was negligible. The sun had set at 21:12.

The bulk carrier Rose Harmony was outbound from Lyttelton. It had just disembarked a pilot and was coming up to speed for its intended passage to Dunedin.

Rose Harmony was carrying passengers from the vessel’s charterer; they were on the bridge at the time of the accident.

The fishing vessel Leila Jo was heading to its home port of Lyttelton after fishing in Pegasus Bay. The skipper was resting at the time of the accident and a deckhand was keeping the navigational watch.

The vessels were in a head-on situation, which required both to alter course to starboard to avoid a collision. The third officer on Rose Harmony observed Leila Jo when it was more than three nautical miles away.

The deckhand on Leila Jo had sighted a vessel leaving Lyttelton on the vessel’s radar but had not tracked the target or observed it with binoculars.

Neither vessel took early and substantial action to avoid a collision, and at 22:59 they collided.

Neither vessel was substantially damaged. One person on Leila Jo suffered minor injuries.


The bridge team on board Rose Harmony, both during and immediately after the pilotage ended, had a low situational awareness of other marine traffic in the vicinity.

Distraction due to passengers being on Rose Harmony‘s bridge, the crew not making best use of radar equipment, and the absence of long-range scanning to obtain early warning of the risk of collision were significant factors.

The sole watchkeeper on board Leila Jo had low situational awareness as to the risk of collision with Rose Harmony because the radar equipment was not used to plot the track of the larger vessel.

The watchkeeper on board Leila Jo was not sufficiently familiar with the collision-prevention rules to undertake a sole watch.

Learning points

The collision-prevention rules provide the mandated standard to be followed by all vessels at sea to prevent collisions of two or more vessels. The risk of collisions will inevitably be high if the rules are not adhered to by one or more vessels.

The TAIC added that navigating in pilotage waters is a safety-critical phase of a voyage. It is important that all unnecessary distractions are mitigated during these times, particularly the presence of people on the bridge who are not essential to its operation.

If collisions between vessels are to be avoided, anyone undertaking a sole bridge watch must be sufficiently trained in the collision-prevention rules and be fully familiar with the bridge equipment at their disposal. The collision-prevention rule 7, Risk of Collision states the following:

“Every vessel must use all available means appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions to determine if the risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt, such risk must be considered to exist.”

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