Jump to Content

Case Studies

Case Study C1 : ATSB investigation of the loss of the Immigration department vessel, Malu Sara, in Torres Strait

The incident

On the afternoon of 14 October 2005, the six-metre Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) vessel, Malu Sara, was returning from Saibai Island, at the northern extreme of Torres Strait, to its home community on Badu Island, a passage of 58 miles. There were five people on board: two male DIMA crew, two adult females and a four-year-old girl. The weather for the passage south was less than ideal, with moderate south-easterly winds and seas. More critically there was a sea mist or haze, which reduced visibility to about four nautical miles or less.

By midafternoon, Malu Sara was lost. During the succeeding hours, DIMA staff and the water police on Thursday Island attempted to guide Malu Sara to safety. By the early hours of 15 October, it appeared that Malu Sara was safely anchored in a sheltered position. However, at 0215, the vessel's skipper reported that the boat was taking water and was sinking.

Despite an extensive search over six days no trace of the vessel or four of its five occupants was found. One body was recovered by Indonesian fishermen about 50 miles west of Malu Sara's last known position.


The ATSB's investigation found that a number of factors were directly causal in the tragic loss of Malu Sara. In essence, the vessel was not seaworthy. 'Seaworthiness' is an all-encompassing term that refers to a vessel's design, construction and equipment, and the fitness of its crew, to undertake a given voyage in certain specified conditions.

The bureau's investigation revealed that the vessel did not meet basic safety standards in terms of reserve buoyancy, stability or cockpit drainage and that this was a factor in its loss. The lack of some critical equipment, most notably a navigation chart, and the skipper's lack of training in some critical aspects of the vessel's equipment were also factors. It also seems likely that the skipper's level of fatigue on the day contributed to his disorientation and some poor decision making.

Safety actions

Significant safety actions have been taken as a result of the loss of Malu Sara. DIMA immediately suspended its marine operations in Torres Strait and has since conducted an extensive review of its operations in the region. The review has led to changes in DIMA's procurement and contract management procedures and a change in the management structure of its North Queensland operations.

Buoyancy and stability testing of the Malu Sara's sister vessel by ATSB marine investigators (Photo DOTARS) Buoyancy and stability testing of the Malu Sara's sister vessel by ATSB marine investigators (Photo DOTARS)

AMSA has reviewed and strengthened the safety requirements for all Australian Government vessels. It will also implement, in conjunction with Maritime Safety Queensland, a Torres Strait Maritime Safety Strategy aimed at strengthening the maritime safety culture in the region.

Standards Australia has undertaken a review of AS1799 (Small Pleasure Boats Code) with a view to making it more consistent with the standards for commercial vessels.

Case Study C2 : Transport security aspects of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games

The 2006 Commonwealth Games (M2006 Games) were held in Melbourne from 15 26 March this year.

The M2006 Games included over:

  • 1 million spectators
  • 6,000 athletes, coaches and team officials
  • 3,000 local and international media
  • 5,000 service providers
  • 15,000 volunteers
  • 40,000 internal visitors
  • 50,000 interstate visitors
  • 1 billion television viewers worldwide.

It was the biggest sporting event to take place in Australia since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

On behalf of the government, the department, through the OTS, worked closely with Australian and Victorian government agencies to provide an effective national security overlay for the games, participating in both national level and state-based forums to plan transport security for the games.

Mike Taylor, DOTARS Secretary, presenting one of the department's staff members who contirbuted to the successful running of the M2006 games with a commemorative medallion. (Photo DOTARS) Mike Taylor, DOTARS Secretary, presenting one of the department's staff members who contirbuted to the successful running of the M2006 games with a commemorative medallion. (Photo DOTARS)

The department was responsible for ensuring that Australia met its national and international responsibilities for security of airlines, airports, ports and shipping in the lead-up to and during the M2006 Games.

The department deployed staff to Melbourne to cover the operations of the games and to support contingency plans. Our staff provided advice, support and direction to Australian Government agencies, the Victorian Governmentincluding the Victorian Police Service the M2006 organisers and the transport industry.

Case Study C3 : Brisbane Cairns Corridor Strategy

The Australian and Queensland governments have completed a draft joint transport strategy for the Brisbane Cairns corridor that will inform their investment decisions for the Bruce Highway and North Coast Railway beyond 2009.

It is the first of more than 20 corridor strategies being developed for the AusLink National Network, which has replaced the National Highway as the principal road and rail system linking capital cities and major population centres.

Corridor strategies identify transport needs within a corridor and the priorities for meeting those needs. They provide a basis for making decisions on future project planning and construction time frames.

The Brisbane Cairns Corridor Strategy provides a detailed snapshot of the corridor, its transport function, deficiencies and future needs. It provides the Australian and Queensland governments with a blueprint for devising practical solutions to emerging problems before they become critical.

Governments will now explore multi-modal outcomes to the needs of the corridor and plan strategies for 20 to 25 years into the future.

A thorough analysis of the Brisbane Cairns corridor underpinned the development of the corridor strategy: the role of the corridor in supporting major industry, population growth, tourism and exports; the needs of growing regional centres and ports along the corridor; an assessment of modal competition and the role of rail; analysis of current and future transport demand and the economic and social drivers of demand; and an assessment of road safety black spots and risk factors.

The analysis found the following:

  • about 58 per cent of Queenslanders live along the corridor
  • the corridor is highly decentralised, with major urban areas, industry and agricultural production as well as tourism spread along its 1,700 km length
  • road and rail transport activity throughout the corridor is expected to grow strongly at between around 2.5 and 3.0 per cent a year. South of Childers, road traffic is expected to grow at the higher rate of around 3.5 per cent a year and double in 20 years. This growth will be fuelled by rapid population and economic growth and tourism
  • road and rail are expected to continue to compete strongly for long-distance movement of general freight in the corridor. Rail and coastal shipping will have important roles in movement of bulk cargo, and road is expected to continue to dominate local and intra-regional transport and specific niche markets. Air transport is expected to grow rapidly (averaging over 5 per cent a year) and expand its dominance of the long-distance passenger travel market.

Bruce Highway north of Gympie (Photo DOTARS) Bruce Highway north of Gympie (Photo DOTARS)

The main challenges are to cater for expected growth and, at the same time, improve the safety, reliability and maintenance of the entire road corridor. The main challenge for the rail system is to ensure that the infrastructure in the North Coast Line can support the provision of competitive rail services, particularly freight services. In the longer term, additional rail capacity may be required to meet potential growth in north south rail freight activity.

Case Study C4 : Dynon Port Rail Link

Melbourne's Dynon Port Rail Link illustrates the importance of joint government cooperation towards achieving the AusLink Programme objectives in conjunction with private enterprise. Melbourne is Australia's largest and most efficient container port, generating trade worth $100 million every day. By volume, it handles 37 per cent of Australia's import/export container traffic.

Work is progressing on a major project that will deliver uninterrupted 24-hour road and rail access to the Port of Melbourne and reduce congestion on Footscray Road, one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. Under AusLink, the Australian Government will contribute $110 million towards the Dynon Port Rail Link.

This AusLink investment aims to achieve world best practice in intermodal operations at Melbourne, keep the port competitive, and reduce the likelihood of increased container transportation shifting from rail to road.

Flow-on benefits from the planned investment will include quicker turnaround times for vehicles and better utilisation of terminal facilities, forklifts, service roads and staff.

The project involves construction of an 80-metre overpass, six lanes wide, that will carry Footscray Road over a newly built railway line, together with other rail and signalling works. The project is located on the main interstate rail corridor as it enters the Port of Melbourne. The project will help facilitate the objective of 30 per cent of port-related freight to be transported by rail by 2010.

The rail infrastructure upgrading will improve freight flows in the Dynon precinct and to the Port of Melbourne, and allow the use of longer trains to access the port's on-dock rail terminals directly. The separation of the railway and Footscray Road will eliminate traffic delays on Footscray Road as trains cross to access the Port of Melbourne.

This project is scheduled to be completed by 30 June 2009.

Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss (right) and Victorian Transport minister Peter Batchelor opening the Dynon Port Rail link (Photo courtesy Department of Infrastructure-Victorian State Government)
Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss (right) and Victorian Transport minister Peter Batchelor opening the Dynon Port Rail Link
(Photo courtesy Department of InfrastructureVictorian State Government)

Case Study C5 : Emergency towage

It is in the national interest to protect the marine environment from the consequences of significant pollution in the event of a maritime incident. While the incidence of significant pollution damage to the Australian coast has, fortunately been relatively rare, international experience demonstrates the extremely damaging effect of even a single major oil spill adjacent to a nation's coastline. The Australian, state and Northern Territory governments have agreed that effective management of first response to maritime incidents requires clear, unambiguous decision-making powers exercised by a single body.

In collaboration with AMSA and the states and Northern Territory, the government put in place the legislative, financial and operational measures for the National Maritime Emergency Response Arrangement (NMERA), which the Australian Transport Council agreed to in November 2005. Under NMERA there is now a single national decision maker that can effectively intervene at an early stage once an incident occurs. This prevents disputes over legal jurisdiction and respective responsibilities.

Amendments to the Protection of the Sea (Shipping Levy) Act 1981 were made to enable the full recovery of the costs of NMERA from the shipping industry. In May 2006 the government announced a moratorium on the shipping levy increases in 2006 07, with levies to be gradually increased from 2007 08 with full cost recovery by 2009 10.

AMSA also let three contracts under NMERA for providing emergency towage services around Australia's coastline:

  • Australian Maritime Systems Ltd for a dedicated vessel in the northern Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait region. The contract will cost approximately $8 million a year and will run for eight years. This vessel will also undertake maintenance of marine aids to navigation in the region. The service will commence on 1 July 2006.
  • RiverWijs-Dampier for the north Western Australia region based on the port of Dampier. This service commenced from 1 June 2006 at a cost of about $0.4 million a year for five years.
  • Adsteam Pty Ltd for capabilities in the remaining seven regions around Australia at a cost of $3 million a year over five years, which will also commence on 1 July 2006.

With these contracts in place, emergency towage arrangements are now comprehensively provided for on the Australian coast.

Case Study C6 : Environmental performance criteria for heavy diesel vehicles

The Australian Government is providing significant support to the transport industry by reducing its fuel tax costs. Under the Fuel Tax Act 2006, operators of heavy vehicles are eligible for a fuel tax credit worth around 18.5c/L. The new fuel tax credit removes the previous urban regional boundary limits to assessing the tax credit, extending eligibility and reducing administrative costs.

As part of its energy policy announced in its publication Securing Australia's energy future, the government indicated that it would introduce environmental criteria governing eligibility for the fuel tax credit, to ensure that the tax benefit is not available to high-polluting vehicles that can adversely affect air quality and human health.

The criteria have not been designed to be onerous, but rather to provide a mechanism to encourage good vehicle maintenance. They provide a range of options to ensure that any operator, including an owner-driver, who maintains the emission-related components of their vehicle in a reasonable manner will be able to claim the credit.

On behalf of the government, the department has developed a set of guidelines to assist the industry understand the criteria and apply them to their businesses. The guidelines were developed in consultation with the truck and bus industry, including operator organisations, engine manufacturers and maintenance experts. The guidelines can be downloaded from the department's website at www.dotars.gov.au and are also available in hard copy from the Australian Taxation Office.

Case Study C7 : Australian GNSS Coordination Committee

The past year saw the final meeting of the Australian Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Coordination Committee (AGCC) on 22 June 2006. Under the chairmanship of Professor Don Sinnott, and in consultation with over 150 stakeholder communities, the AGCC had looked at a range of issues facing Australia to enable businesses and consumers to get the best use of GNSS.

The AGCC was established in 2000 as the national advisory body to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services on issues relevant to GNSS, still an emerging technology at that time. GNSS is a generic term covering a number of existing and planned constellations of satellites and their supporting infrastructure systems, used for determining positions across the globe. Examples are the United States Global Positioning System (GPS) and the forthcoming European Galileo system.

The AGCC effectively managed issues during the time GNSS was a rapidly emerging technology. The AGCC produced the GNSS policy statement Positioning for the future, which was launched by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services in August 2002. An aspirational high-level strategic document, it was essential to raising awareness.

By 2006 GNSS technology had become well recognised as an enabler for industry and well established across many industry sectors. Without understating the ongoing importance of GNSS, the judgement was made that there was no ongoing need for a coordination committee along the lines of the AGCC. The minister has expressed his appreciation for the dedication and insight of the AGCC members over the challenging initial years of GNSS implementation.

Attendees at the twentieth and final meeting of the Australian GNSS Coordination Committee on 22 June 2006
Attendees at the twentieth and final meeting of the Australian GNSS Coordination Committee on 22 June 2006

(back) Dr Peter Fisk, National Measurement Institute; Keith McPherson, Airservices Australia; Peter Holland, Geosciences Australia; John Sprivulis, OmniSTAR Pty Ltd; Deborah Reynolds, DOTARS (secretariat)

(front) Geoff McMillen, Australian Communications and Media Authority (adviser); Merrilyn Chilvers, DOTARS; Prof. Don Sinnott (chair), Merilyn Bassett, DOTARS (secretary), Prof Chris Rizos, University of New South Wales

(not in photograph) Brent Stafford, Intelligent Transport Systems Australia