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Preliminary report details pilot launch grounding at Port Phillip Heads

A transport safety investigation is continuing into the grounding and wreck of the pilot launch PV Corsair off Point Lonsdale, Victoria, with early evidence published in a preliminary report.

Victoria’s Office of the Chief Investigator, Transport Safety is undertaking the investigation in an agreement with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, under the Commonwealth Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.

The preliminary report, which does not include analysis or findings, notes the launch was returning after collecting a pilot from an outbound container ship when, just after 11 pm on 5 October 2023, it entered shallow water surrounding Point Lonsdale Reef, and then ran aground.

Fortunately, Corsair’s coxswain and deckhand, and the pilot they had collected, were safely rescued from the vessel by Victoria Water Police about 90 minutes later.

The vessel, however, was destroyed on the reef during the night, and the debris was recovered the following day.

“Point Lonsdale makes up the western side of the Port Phillip Heads – the mouth of Port Phillip, through which all ships visiting the ports of Melbourne and Geelong must pass,” Chief Investigator Mark Smallwood said.

“Point Lonsdale Reef, an outcrop of flat-topped rocks, extends up to about 540 m south-east of Point Lonsdale, and sits west of a defined small craft channel – which itself is to the west of a number of channels suitable for larger ships.

“The extent of the reef’s exposure and its visibility varies with tide and sea conditions.”

To date, the transport safety investigation has included interviews with relevant personnel, vessel inspections, the examination of pilot launch track recordings from the accident and previous transits of the Heads, and a review of relevant communications.

PV Nepean, the sister vessel of PV Corsair

“As it progresses, the investigation will consider the operation of Corsair, including bridge resource management, and will further examine relevant safety management systems and vessel data recordings,” Mr Smallwood said.

A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation.

“Relevant parties will be notified immediately, should the investigation identify a critical safety issue before the final report is complete.”

Read the preliminary report: Grounding of pilot launch PV Corsair at Queenscliff on 5 October 2023