Statendam Cruise Ship Near Grounding Victoria Australia – On December 6, 2006, Holland America Line Statendam had a near grounding incident in shallow harbor at Queenscliff rip. “The Rip”, also known as “The Heads”, is a dangerous stretch of water in Victoria, Australia, connecting Port Phillip and Bass Strait.
It is the only entrance for shipping into Port Phillip and hence into Melbourne. Because of large tidal flows through the relatively narrow channel from the bay to the ocean, and a high rocky seabed, The Rip has claimed many ships and lives.
Holland America Line cruise ship Statendam, nearly grounded with 1700 passengers aboard, as she entered a shallow harbor without authorization or a pilot aboard. Putting passenger, crew and the ship in danger and resulted in serious damage to the ship.
It was a little before 0500 (5:00 am) on December 6, 2006 when the bridge staff of the Statendam, owned by Holland America Line, a vessel with a draught of 7.5 meters took it upon themselves to begin entering Queenscliff rip in rough weather conditions with reduced visibility, at a higher than advised rate of speed. It was a recipe for disaster.
The pilot had not arrived, the captain decided not to wait any longer and took off steaming towards the harbor, through an area where the draught was only 7 meters. When the pilot arrived on her bridge after a mandatory security check, he needed to adjust his eyes in the reduced visibility to get his bearings and then noticed that Statendam was veering dangerously close to Point Lonsdale and the outlying reefs. He ordered an immediate 90-degree turn.
The official report of the incident said that Statendam violated compulsory pilotage for all vessels measuring 35 meters and longer, and the ship continued towards the heads, traveling at a speed well above the recommended limit.
Engineers on duty reported hearing “a loud knock”. It was determined that divers would have to inspect the vessel hull before she could continue on. Divers found that one of the ship’s stabilizer fins had been damaged as the ship struck bottom.
The irresponsible decision on the bridge, if not for a last minute decision by the pilot, nearly resulted in Statendam being gutted like a fish, with certain catastrophic results due to increased rate of speed over the regulation guidelines, and the shallow course she was on before the hard 90-degree turn was ordered.
It is negligent for the line to have not made this incident public so their potential passengers would be aware of the level of competency aboard that vessel. There has been a number of recent similar incidents that did result in catastrophe. There have been eight other groundings from December 6, 2006 through October 30, 2007.
The report, by Victoria’s chief marine safety investigator, found serious lapses by both the ship and the Port of Melbourne Corporation.
The investigation report found both the pilot and the communications officer at Point Lonsdale had failed to challenge the ship’s entry into the port.
The report also said several other ships strayed from the main channel entrance into the port and struck bottom.
The details of this incident only come to light as the State Government prepares to announce its approval of the dredging plan this week to increase the depth of the channel.