The incident

The French-registered passenger vessel 'L’Austral' arrived off the Snares Islands early on the morning of 9 January 2017. The passengers spent the morning making shoreline excursions in rigid-hulled inflatable boats, observing the wildlife. That afternoon the weather became unsuitable for small-boat excursions, so L’Austral rendezvoused with the boats in the sheltered water to the south of the islands to take them back on board.

While the master was focused on manoeuvring the ship to facilitate the safe recovery of the rigid-hulled inflatable boats, the ship drifted into a 300-metre unauthorised zone, where it contacted an uncharted rock.

The rock pierced the hull in an empty void tank, which flooded with water. The damaged compartment had little effect on the ship’s stability, and the ship was able to continue to another sub-Antarctic island before returning to New Zealand for temporary repairs. None of the 200 passengers and 156 crew were injured.



The Transport Accident Investigation Commission found that:

  1. The unauthorised zone was a Department of Conservation-controlled zone, where charts indicated dangers unsafe for ships the size of L’Austral.
  2. The uncharted rock was in an area that the Commission considers was not suitable for the safe navigation of ships the size of L’Austral.
  3. There are deficiencies in the way the crew worked together (bridge resource management), insufficient planning for boat recovery and inadequate monitoring of the ship’s position.

Safety issues

  • Voyage planning and good bridge resource management
  • Unfamiliarity with operation of the ship’s electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS)
  • The Department of Conservation had insufficient maritime expertise applied to assessing risks, given the potentially harsh and sensitive environment in the sub-Antarctic islands and the likelihood that shipping activity will increase in future,


The Commission advised:

  1. That the ship’s operator improve voyage planning, bridge resource management
  2. That the ship’s operator review staff training in correct use of electronic chart display and information systems
  3. That DoC appoint a person to manage safe of navigation in the sub-Antarctic islands.

Lessons learned

The key lessons arising from this inquiry were:

  • An electronic chart display and information system is a valuable aid to navigation. However, mariners need to understand fully and be familiar with all aspects of the system, otherwise relying on the electronic chart display and information system as a primary means of navigation can contribute to, rather than prevent, accidents
  • Every part of a ship’s voyage must be planned, and all members of the bridge team must be fully familiar with and agree to the plan. This is a cornerstone of good bridge resource management
  • Good bridge resource management relies on a culture where challenge is welcomed and responded to, regardless of rank, personality or nationality.

Further details may be found herebelow: