On the morning of 28 April 1999, the Greek tanker Olympic Symphony,
loaded with crude oil, was inbound to the BP wharf at Luggage Point
in the Brisbane River
A pilot was conducting the navigation and the
master and 2nd mate were on the bridge
The vessel was on hand steering and,
after clearing East Channel, was steadied on a course of 245 deg.
At about 0755, the vessel approached the Entrance Channel
and the pilot ordered port rudder.
Olympic Symphony was steadied briefly on a course of
230 deg when the helmsman noticed that the rudder angle indicator did not
indicate any rudder movement to port
At about 0757, the helmsman reported that the vessel was not responding to the helm
and that the steering was stuck to starboard.
The pilot ordered the helm hard over each way
but there seemed to be no response
He noticed from the rudder angle indicator
that the rudder was at 5 deg to starboard
He ordered the speed reduced and asked the master for emergency steering
The master told the chief engineer to check the steering.
The pilot intended passing ahead of an anchored ship
but Olympic Symphony continued to swing to starboard.
He realised that they would have to pass astern of the anchored vessel,
which was now less than 3 cables off.
He ordered the wheel put hard to starboard
The rudder angle indicator
went to starboard and he ordered full ahead on the engine
By this time, the stern of the anchored vessel was almost ahead,
probably less than a cable [185.2 m] from the bow of Olympic Symphony.
Olympic Symphony passed astern of the anchored vessel,
clearing it by about 6-10 m.
The pilot informed port control (Brisbane Harbour) of the steering
failure, stating that the vessel was likely to anchor
However, subsequent tests of the steering system showed
that it was operating satisfactorily.
The master told the pilot
that the chief engineer had found no problem with the steering
The pilot then notified port control that the vessel was operational
and that it would be at the entrance beacons in about 12 minutes.
The vessel resumed passage to the berth without further incident
and, at 1014, was secured alongside.
These conclusions identify the different factors contributing
to the incident and should not be read as apportioning blame or liability
to any particular organisation or individual.
Based on all the evidence available, the following factors are
considered to have contributed to the incident:
The micro-switch roller for the 'helm off midships' alarm
was liable to obstruct the helm indicator slide.
The 'helm off midships alarm' was not approved by the manufacturers
of the steering console and had been installed without reference to them.
The communication by the bridge team to the pilot was deficient,
in that the master and the helmsman were aware that there was a response
to the movements of the helm to starboard of 5 deg starboard only, but
the pilot was not informed of this.
The master did not try the other steering system or change
to the non-followup mode.
It is possible that the pilot, asking for emergency steering,
prompted the master to think of the emergency steering position in the
steering flat rather than to consider other alternatives available on
The procedures available to the bridge team did not specify
action to be taken following failure of both steering systems.
The ship's bridge team was not familiar with the steering
systems and modes available to it.
Given the unknown cause of the temporary steering failure,
insufficient consideration was given to the risks and possible consequences
of transiting the Entrance Channel.
Neither the master nor the pilot offered port control sufficient
explanation of the incident to allow those on duty to make a judgement
as to whether or not the harbour master should be informed and conditions
imposed on an entry into port by Olympic Symphony.
Taken as promptly as they were, the actions of the pilot averted a collision.