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Radar warns cargo ship crew before grounding on New Zealand reef

(Xinhua)

13:12, March 08, 2012

WELLINGTON, March 8 (Xinhua) -- The crew of a Liberian-flagged cargo ship that ran on to a reef off New Zealand last year were aware of a possible obstacle in the ship's path about 10 minutes before it ran aground, a preliminary investigation has found.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) Thursday released an interim report of its independent inquiry into the grounding of the containership Rena on the Astrolabe Reef, off the eastern North Island port of Tauranga, at 2.14 a.m. on Oct. 5.

A statement from the TAIC said the report described how the Rena left Napier and deviated from its intended course as it headed to a 3 a.m. meeting with the Tauranga pilot boat.

The ship, with a navigation system that included the use of its autopilot, GPS positions and charts, was on a direct track for the Astrolabe Reef at 1.50 a.m., the TAIC found.

The report, which highlights discrepancies in the accounts given by the master and the second mate, pointed out that the Rena 's actual course was about 2 degrees south of the heading on the vessel's gyrocompass.

"At about 0205 (2.05 a.m.) the master noticed an intermittent echo on the radar. The echo was about 2.6 nautical miles (4.8 km) dead ahead of the Rena. The master showed the echo on the radar to the watch-keeping able-bodied seaman and they used binoculars to look through the windows of the bridge for the cause of the echo. They could not see anything, so they moved to the bridge wing to look from there. When again nothing could be seen, the master said he decided to plot the Rena's position on the chart, so began to walk through the wheelhouse to the chartroom," the report said.

"At the time of 0214 (2.14 a.m.) as the master made his way to the chartroom the Rena struck Astrolabe Reef while traveling at a speed of 17 knots (31.5 km per hour)."

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