Magnetic Island North Queensland
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November 22nd 2007
Sunferries make a detailed account

The damaged Sun Cat on Monday night Following is a detailed response from Sunferries' General Manager, Mr Darin McDonald over the incident in which a channel pylon marker was struck by the Sun Cat ferry on Monday night. The account, though somewhat technical, is published in full to provide Magnetic Islanders with as much information as possible following ongoing concerns raised by some readers.

In response to the questions raised by concerned Magnetic Island residents regarding the recent incident at Nelly Bay, Sunferries would like to provide facts and information regarding this incident to help alleviate and dispel any anxiety felt by our customers.

On Monday evening the vessel 'Sun Cat' was involved in an incident at the entrance to Nelly Bay. This incident, whilst regrettable, did occur and, thankfully, no person was injured. The crew responded as trained and damage to the vessel was cosmetic and did not affect the seaworthiness.

Yes.. the new vessels do have an emergency DC steering system.

Yes..Sunferries do have a drug and alcohol Policy with a Zero tolerance - the master of the vessel was breath tested by Police and returned a negative result.

Yes.....steering can be achieved using main engines.

Yes Investigation is being conducted by Maritime Safety Queensland.

So what did cause the incident?
It was a combination of the following, which all happened in 5 to 10 seconds:
*Poor weather conditions - wind and sea

*The stern of the vessel hit by a wave as the vessel approached beacons 3 & 4

*Subsequent helm adjustments to counter sea and waves - helm 20 degrees starboard

*240 generator failure between beacons 3 & 4 at Nelly Bay

*Subsequent 240 volt steering failure whilst helm to starboard - switch to DC

*Hard port rudder to counter rudder angle of 20 to 30 degrees stb - response in DC mode slower to react

*Helm now 10-20 degrees port - collision imminent - astern propulsion - engines stalled - bang

Subsequent actions taken after mains restarted and vessel berthed.
*240 generator restarted

*Sunferries Operations manager advised

*Ops Manager - advised the following: Regional Harbour Master; Townsville Police; General manager

*Inspection and sea trial conducted to ensure vessel's seaworthiness inclusive of: All voids checked for ingress of water, dents, leaks, holes etc; Propulsion checked;
Steering checked - both AC and DC; Sea trial undertaken by crew without passengers - no vibration, no alignment concerns with shafts and full power achieved on both engines indicating running gear not damaged as thought. Beacon was captured within tunnel.

*Returned to berth at Nelly Bay - all voids and spaces checked again.

*Reported situation to now present General Manager - Risk Assessed by GM, Operations Manager and Master as per Australian Standards regarding the seaworthiness of the vessel and the safety of our passengers.

*Boarded passengers and returned to Townsville

Sunferries openly acknowledges that there have been a number of teething problems with our new vessels, and over the last 11 months we have been working hard to rectify a number of these identified issues / faults.

Sunferries, like every other business throughout Australia is at times constrained by distance. The ability to have parts arrive for repairs and maintenance in a timely manner has not only been downright frustrating but has seen our engineering staff work through long nights to ensure that no interruption of service is experienced by our customers.

With respect to the loss of power in the generator, we have had intermittent faults with them to the extent that Sunferries has decided to replace these generators with larger capacity units. This replacement process has not come about over the last two days as a result of this incident, but through working with the boat builder and designer (please remember these vessels are still under warranty) over the last few months, then placing an order and waiting. You will be pleased to know that these generators arrived in Townsville on the day of the incident and the 'Sun Cat' will have hers fitted next week and 'Maggie Cat' the following week. Unfortunately, this will result in some passengers travelling on the older 'M V Sunbird' for some services for the duration of this programme.

With respect to the stalling of engines when attempting a crash stop at speed. This is a software issue and until Monday had not been tested. The gearbox manufacturer's trouble shooter will be here immediately after the gen sets have been fitted to rectify this problem.

Our maintenance crew are also investigating the possibility of adding a fail safe into the steering by the installation of a switching device that will automatically switch to DC steering in the event of a voltage drop.

Sunferries has a comprehensive preventative maintenance program in place and we hold our passenger safety as a paramount to our business activities, this is underpinned with a risk matrix to aide in the identification of the defects that could possibly cause harm or stop the services from operating.

Sunferries management strongly supports our crew and staff and the experience and suitable qualifications that they require to operate our vessels.

Sunferries will continue to listen and act on issues raised by our customers and hope that this information eases concerns, restores faith and that you continue to enjoy living on the island and the service we provide.

To add your comment, see below

Sunferries make a detailed account
November 22nd 2007
Yeah! Well!
Alan Renton
November 22nd 2007
Congratulations to the General Manager and Staff of Sunferries for such a comprehensive, open and understandable report.
We travelled home to the Island a little earlier on the same day and the conditions were very rough.
Scott Dittman
November 23rd 2007
Great report, certainly puts my mind at rest! Sincere thanks Darin.

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