Incident Report - Cairns to Brisbane, Australia

Contributed by Smithbridge

Smithbridge was engaged to undertake the upgrade of the Tropical Reef Shipyard in Cairns in 2015. This successful project involved demolition of an existing jetty head and construction of a 180m long sheet-piled wharf and new crane platform. 

Steel Trader loaded ready for demobilisation with leader positioned in corner and the 7150’s boom resting on top .

Steel Trader loaded ready for demobilisation with leader positioned in corner and the 7150’s boom resting on top.

A Kobelco 7150 tonne crawler crane was deployed from Brisbane aboard the piling barge ‘Steel Trader,’ complete with the mooring system and other equipment, to carry out the project. Upon successful completion of the works, the team prepared the barge for demobilisation. The piling leader, Kobelco 7150, work boats and support barge were stowed on-board in preparation for the ocean tow back to Brisbane.

On its return voyage, in the middle of the night, the piling leader fell from the barge and was lost into the ocean. With the Kobelco’s boom resting on the leader, it was extremely fortunate the crane wasn’t also pulled into the ocean. No one was injured and there was no significant damage other than the loss of the pile leader (which had a value of $400K).

Driving piles for the shipyard upgrade.

Driving piles for the shipyard upgrade.

This incident highlights the need for an established pre-voyage procedure and checklist, as well as high attention to detail when it comes to lashing for an ocean voyage. Investigations indicated the piling leader had not been secured properly for transportation. The locking pin at the base of the leader had likely vibrated out, causing the leader to tip over. The locking pin had either been incorrectly fixed, or it was damaged, or it was missing from the locking pin hole. It was determined the leader was lost at sufficient depth to not pose a risk to other shipping movements.

The incident is a costly reminder of the need for comprehensive loading and unloading plans including lashing requirements.

Sally Austin