Ro-ro cargo vessel "Union Rotoiti", machinery failure, loss of and damage to cargo, Tasman Sea, 23 April 1999
Occurrence Date
Report Publication Date
Legacy Inquiry Number
On Friday, 23 April 1999, the ro-ro cargo vessel "Union Rotoiti", with 19 crew on board, was on passage from Melbourne to Auckland when it encountered heavy weather. The master had deviated to avoid the leading quadrant of a depression and to reduce the motion of the vessel. Due to fuel filtration problems, the "Union Rotoiti" lost all power for about 50 minutes during which it lay broached to the sea and swell, rolling violently.

By the time power was restored, "Union Rotoiti" had suffered a substantial shift of cargo above and below deck, losing eight 40-foot and four 20-foot containers overboard.

Safety issues identified included:
• upper deck containers located on worn or damaged deck sockets
• incomplete locking of twistlocks within the upper deck stow
• the use of stacking cones between tiers of containers in the main vehicle deck where twistlocks would be more appropriate
• ambiguous instructions in the cargo securing manual for the lashing of containers in the main vehicle deck
• insufficient crew numbers to keep pace with lashing requirements during busy periods of cargowork
• an over-reliance by ship staff on the ability of the stabilisers to always provide a steady platform
• the incomplete dissemination of lessons learned from a previous occurrence.

Several safety actions were put in place by the operator and the charterer (as new owner) to address the majority of the safety issues and safety recommendations were made to address ambiguities in the cargo securing manual.
Related Safety Recommendation(s)
Tasman Sea (-35.393528,156.217346) [may be approximate]