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Overview of the accident

Shen Neng grounding chart
Navigational chart AUS820

  • The Shen Neng ran aground on Douglas Shoal on April 2, 2010
  • 3-4 tons of fuel spilled
  • Ship carved a 2.2-kilometre-long, 400,000-square-metre scar in the reef
  • 39 Million dollars in clean up costs
  • Chief Mate arrested and charged with crime carrying maximum penalty of $55,000
  • Captain arrested and charged with crime carrying maximum penalty of $220,000 and 3 years in prison


  • Probable that the Chief Mate did not record some of the hours he worked since joining the ship so that the hours he did record were in accordance with the requirements of the SMS and STCW.
  • Chief Mate had only had about 2½ hours sleep in the preceding 38½ hours before the grounding.
  • Even though he had not had adequate rest to ensure that he was fit to be in charge of a navigational watch, he was permitted to relieve the second mate at 1600 on the 3rd of April.
  • Chief Mate made a succession of errors which were probably brought about by his lack of sleep.
  • Errors resulted in the Chief Mate not altering the ship’s course when he was required to and the ship ran aground.

The chief mate’s duty log

Duty record completed in a manner to be compliance but did not reflect actual work hours and resulting fatigue risk.

Note that the duty log is conspicuously even, with no variability between days. This brings into question whether the log was completed faithfully and accurately.


Errors made by the Chief Mate leading the grounding:

  • He did not alter the ship’s course at the position which would have seen it safely transit the passage between the Capricorn Group and Douglas and Guthrie Shoals.
  • He did not establish an approximate time of course alteration (1642), instead relying on what he thought would be the time (1700) based on a glance at the relative positions on the chart in use.
  • He did not actively move around the bridge to properly familiarize himself with the navigational task at hand.
  • He did not verify the appropriateness of the chart on the chart table or the environment outside the bridge. Consequently, he was using the wrong chart at the time of the incident.
  • He did not fix the ship’s position after the chief engineer left the bridge just after 1630.
  • In addition, he was relying on getting a GPS waypoint approach alarm prior to the course alteration position, forgetting that the second mate told him that the amended waypoints were not entered in the GPS route plan.

More information

If you are interested in the full investigation report, you can find it here: