Anchor needed to prevent grounding

Lookout! Issue 37, August 2017

A fishing trawler sustained serious damage when it grounded at a South Island harbour entrance, after the crew failed to drop anchor while attempting to restart the engine.

Anchor needed

The relief skipper let the 20 metre trawler drift for 15 minutes in a shipping channel as he tried to restart the engine, while crew waited on deck for instruction.

The vessel was returning to port for a new trawl net at about 10.40pm, when it was bumped by an object – possibly a log – which jammed the propeller and stalled the main engine.

Two crew members had been watching a rugby league international final on TV in the mess. They came on deck while the skipper focused on restarting the engine. But the skipper did not instruct the crew to drop the anchor or assist in any way. He told Maritime NZ that he was not sure if the crew knew how to work the anchor, which could be difficult to use, but he did not check with them.

By the time the skipper restarted the engine and returned to the wheelhouse, the vessel had drifted on to a stony beach at the outer entrance to the harbour. In the outgoing tide, attempts failed to power it off the shoreline. The vessel ended up tipped over and wedged against a large rock. Contact was made with harbour control and the trawler was refloated the next day with the assistance of a tug, and then pushed back to port.

The incident resulted in considerable damage to the trawler, including broken external planking on the starboard side and damage to deck beams.

Maritime NZ has warned the owner operator and relief skipper to make sure that safety measures in the vessel’s Maritime Transport Operating Plan are followed in future. Operators need to ensure the safe navigation of the vessel in any situation.

Vessel severly damaged.


  • Skippers and crews of commercial vessels need to understand the Maritime Transport Operator Plan (MTOP) for the vessel, and follow its safety procedures.
  • If this skipper had followed the MTOP for the vessel, he would have dropped the anchor while trying to restart the engine, and avoided grounding.
  • He now acknowledges it should have been common sense to anchor the boat once it lost power.
  • If in danger, or drifting in a shipping route, the first action should be to anchor to ensure the vessel’s security and that of other marine traffic – especially in a shipping lane.

    Then crews of other vessels can identify the location of stranded or drifting boats on their radar.
  • The crew of the trawler should also have kept a lookout by all appropriate means, including its radar, so they could warn other vessels by radio if need be. „
  • All crew members should be trained in the operation of essential equipment, including the anchor, so they can assist in emergency situations.
  • The Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS) is designed to ensure safe operating practices among commercial operators – who are responsible for developing their own safety system covering the entire operation of the vessel, including crew training in safety procedures.
  • It is also the responsibility of the operator to ensure skippers are fully aware of the MTOP and how to implement it.

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