Collision between RSS Courageous and ANL Indonesia



On 3 January 2003 at about 11.35 pm, a patrol vessel commissioned by the Republic of Singapore Navy, the RSS Courageous, collided with a cargo ship, the ANL Indonesia, along the eastern Singapore Straits near Horsburgh Lighthouse (on the island of Pedra Branca).1 The collision not only caused extensive damage to RSS Courageous, but also resulted in the deaths of four of its crew members. Two naval officers were later found guilty of causing the accident and fined for negligence.2

Background
RSS Courageous was a 460-tonne anti-submarine patrol vessel in the Singapore navy’s fleet, while ANL Indonesia was a Dutch-registered container ship owned by P&O Nedlloyd with a gross tonnage of about 52,000. At the time of the collision, RSS Courageous and ANL Indonesia had a crew of 44 and 23 members respectively. The RSS Courageous was on a routine patrol on the waters off Pedra Branca when it was hit by ANL Indonesia, which was en route to Busan, South Korea from Port Klang, Malaysia.3

Earlier that evening, the captain of RSS Courageous had instructed the crew to be extra vigilant after a vessel of another country was spotted near the island.
The collision occurred amid a territorial dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over Pedra Branca, and followed a series of incidents involving the entry of Malaysian vessels into the area within the year.4

The collision
About 15 minutes before the collision, RSS Courageous and ANL Indonesia were both on a north-easterly course on the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS, a routing system for regulating shipping traffic in the waterway) off Horsburgh Lighthouse. About five minutes later, RSS Courageous turned around and proceeded on a south-westerly course on the eastbound lane. Although the vessel was travelling in the opposite direction of general traffic flow on this lane, against international collision regulations, it later emerged during investigations that navy ships were allowed to do so, and often did.5


At about 11.30 pm, RSS Courageous altered its course to port (to the left) to bring it closer to Horsburgh Lighthouse, but this meant that it would cut across the path of ANL Indonesia. Between 11.31 pm and 11.33 pm, RSS Courageous made two alterations to port, to avoid a crash based on the assumption that the merchant vessel would not alter its course. However, ANL Indonesia responded with two alterations of course to starboard (to the right). At about 11.34 pm, RSS Courageous made another alteration to port and accelerated; ANL Indonesia sounded a prolonged blast on its whistle to warn the navy ship. Despite ANL Indonesia’s subsequent helm order of “hard-a-port” (to swing the ship to the left), and setting its engines to full throttle, the aft (rear section) of RSS Courageous was hit by the bow (front end) of ANL Indonesia.6

Impact and casualties
ANL Indonesia sustained slight damage and none of its crew were hurt. However, the massive force of the collision sheared off a portion of the navy ship’s aft, and compressed part of what remained of its rear. Eight crew members suffered minor injuries and four female crew members, who were in their sleeping quarters in the part of the ship that was hit, were initially reported missing. A massive search and rescue operation was launched, and the bodies of three of the women were recovered – the body of Corporal Goh Hui Ling, 22, was found lodged between the bunks of the damaged vessel, while the bodies of First Sergeant Seah Ai Leng, 25, and First Sergeant Heng Sock Ling, 24, washed up on the Indonesian island of Bintan.7


The search operation for the fourth crew member, Second Sergeant Chua Bee Lin, 24, ended on 13 January 2003 following the advice of forensic experts. Some had hoped that her body was trapped in the stern, which had broken off and sunk. The wreckage was raised from the seabed on 14 January 2003, but her body was not recovered. Chua was officially declared dead about a year later.8

Inquiry and legal proceedings
On 4 April 2003, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) released a report on its inquiry into the collision. The report stated that errors of judgement on the part of RSS Courageous led to the collision, and did not place any blame on ANL Indonesia. It also noted that although the vessel was under the immediate control of Lieutenant Chua Chue Teng, a trainee officer-of-the-watch, it was her supervising officer Lieutenant Ng Keng Yong who was fully responsible for the safe navigation of the ship, and that his timely intervention would have prevented the accident.9


MPA determined that the first alteration of course to turn the vessel around would not have led to the accident if RSS Courageous had maintained its course and speed. What constituted errors of judgement were: the first alteration of course to port to stay closer to Horsburgh Lighthouse, which resulted in a risk of colliding with ANL Indonesia; the alterations of course to cross in front of ANL Indonesia on the assumption that the cargo ship would not change its course; and the series of small alterations of course to port that negated the evasive actions taken by ANL Indonesia.10

Following the release of MPA’s report, Chua and Ng faced criminal charges in court for causing the deaths of their four colleagues by negligence. The maximum penalty for causing death by a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide was two years’ jail and a fine.11

It was made known during the trial that MPA’s full report also included criticisms of ANL Indonesia’s actions, including its failure to slow down when it realised that RSS Courageous was trying to cross its bow, and its failure to switch from auto-pilot mode to manual control so that it could steer more to the right at a faster speed to avoid a collision.12 These criticisms were omitted in the report that was released to the public.13

After a 24-day trial that stretched from 17 November 2003 to 26 March 2004, Chua and Ng were found guilty and fined S$8,000 and S$10,000 respectively.14 In his judgement, District Judge Tan Boon Gin said that it was the actions of the two officers that triggered the chain of events that ultimately led to the tragedy, and that the errors made by ANL Indonesia “certainly did not eclipse” those of RSS Courageous. Chua and Ng submitted an appeal to the High Court, but it was dismissed by Chief Justice Yong Pung How on 13 July 2004.15

In November 2004, the Singapore government sued P&O Nedlloyd for damages arising from the collision, putting blame solely on P&O Nedlloyd. The civil suit was settled out of court.16



Authors

Fatimah Mehron Nisha & Valerie Chew



References
1. Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2016). Findings of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)'S inquiry into the collision between ANL Indonesia and RSS Courageous [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, July 29 from Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore website: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/media-centre/news-releases/detail/b034bf76-7605-4bad-9e4e-2a4c2404c740/!ut/p/z1/lY_dDsFAEEafxQNsdoxpty6XUGWltErtjWxpaUKJiAtPr03cqL-Yu0nO980crnnMdWGu-dZc8mNh9uW-1PbKdxR6EnDkByhATluRr_qEjrL5ogbQzAIp3SB0egN0J8D1f_kXoMrDh5HAh78OlAZ4HnfHW65P5rJjeZEdeZxAi5JM2EzYYDFKzIa1U0oZGlojAa0FQfmbfm53R30s7cJmZM17ICOsA2_0aw2DtqiAruoAITjNB_DF8HSI4pvKQi-XjTvkCmoq/; Nadarajan, B. (2003, January 15). Shorn-off portion of ship raised. The Straits Times, p. 1; Henson, B. (2003, January 6). Missing navy officers: Two bodies found on Bintan. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Andrew, R. (2004, July 14). CJ Yong sympathises with naval officers, but dismisses appeals. Today, p. 6; Chong, C. K. (2003, June 21). Navy collision officers in court to face criminal charges. The Straits Times, p. 1; Loo, D. (2005, January 22). Govt files suit against Dutch ship's owners. The Straits Times, p. 1; Nadarajan, B. (2004, March 27). Navy collision officers convicted. The Straits Times, p. 1; Nadarajan, B., & Wong, S. M. (2004, April 3). Navy collision officers fined. The Straits Times, p. 3; Vijayan, K. C. (2003, January 5). Just like being hit by a 'juggernaut'. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2016). Findings of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)'S inquiry into the collision between ANL Indonesia and RSS Courageous [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, July 29 from Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore website: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/media-centre/news-releases/detail/b034bf76-7605-4bad-9e4e-2a4c2404c740/!ut/p/z1/lY_dDsFAEEafxQNsdoxpty6XUGWltErtjWxpaUKJiAtPr03cqL-Yu0nO980crnnMdWGu-dZc8mNh9uW-1PbKdxR6EnDkByhATluRr_qEjrL5ogbQzAIp3SB0egN0J8D1f_kXoMrDh5HAh78OlAZ4HnfHW65P5rJjeZEdeZxAi5JM2EzYYDFKzIa1U0oZGlojAa0FQfmbfm53R30s7cJmZM17ICOsA2_0aw2DtqiAruoAITjNB_DF8HSI4pvKQi-XjTvkCmoq/; Vijayan, K. C. (2003, January 5). Just like being hit by a 'juggernaut'. The Straits Times, p. 22; Henson, B. (2003, January 5). Collision off Pedra Branca. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Nadarajan, B. (2003, November 17). Navy vessel collision trial to start today. The Straits Times, p. 5; What Courageous should have done to avoid a collision.... (2003, December 29). The Straits Times, p. 4; Henson, B. (2003, January 11). A tale of sympathy and politics. The Straits Times, p. H19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2016). Findings of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)'S inquiry into the collision between ANL Indonesia and RSS Courageous [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, July 29  from Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore website: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/media-centre/news-releases/detail/b034bf76-7605-4bad-9e4e-2a4c2404c740/!ut/p/z1/lY_dDsFAEEafxQNsdoxpty6XUGWltErtjWxpaUKJiAtPr03cqL-Yu0nO980crnnMdWGu-dZc8mNh9uW-1PbKdxR6EnDkByhATluRr_qEjrL5ogbQzAIp3SB0egN0J8D1f_kXoMrDh5HAh78OlAZ4HnfHW65P5rJjeZEdeZxAi5JM2EzYYDFKzIa1U0oZGlojAa0FQfmbfm53R30s7cJmZM17ICOsA2_0aw2DtqiAruoAITjNB_DF8HSI4pvKQi-XjTvkCmoq/; What Courageous should have done to avoid a collision... (2003, December 29). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2016). Findings of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)'S inquiry into the collision between ANL Indonesia and RSS Courageous [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, July 29 from Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore website: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/media-centre/news-releases/detail/b034bf76-7605-4bad-9e4e-2a4c2404c740/!ut/p/z1/lY_dDsFAEEafxQNsdoxpty6XUGWltErtjWxpaUKJiAtPr03cqL-Yu0nO980crnnMdWGu-dZc8mNh9uW-1PbKdxR6EnDkByhATluRr_qEjrL5ogbQzAIp3SB0egN0J8D1f_kXoMrDh5HAh78OlAZ4HnfHW65P5rJjeZEdeZxAi5JM2EzYYDFKzIa1U0oZGlojAa0FQfmbfm53R30s7cJmZM17ICOsA2_0aw2DtqiAruoAITjNB_DF8HSI4pvKQi-XjTvkCmoq/
7. Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2016). Findings of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)'S inquiry into the collision between ANL Indonesia and RSS Courageous [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, July 29 from Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore website: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/media-centre/news-releases/detail/b034bf76-7605-4bad-9e4e-2a4c2404c740/!ut/p/z1/lY_dDsFAEEafxQNsdoxpty6XUGWltErtjWxpaUKJiAtPr03cqL-Yu0nO980crnnMdWGu-dZc8mNh9uW-1PbKdxR6EnDkByhATluRr_qEjrL5ogbQzAIp3SB0egN0J8D1f_kXoMrDh5HAh78OlAZ4HnfHW65P5rJjeZEdeZxAi5JM2EzYYDFKzIa1U0oZGlojAa0FQfmbfm53R30s7cJmZM17ICOsA2_0aw2DtqiAruoAITjNB_DF8HSI4pvKQi-XjTvkCmoq/; Henson, B. (2003, January 5). Collision off Pedra Branca. The Straits Times, p. 1; Henson, B. (2003, January 6). Missing navy officers: Two bodies found on Bintan. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Ministry of Defence. (2016). Collision at sea: Statement by Chief of Defence Force [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, October 14 from Ministry of Defence website:

https://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/press_room/official_releases/sp/2003/13jan03_speech.print.img.html; Ministry of Defence. (2016). Collision at sea: Body recovered from RSS Courageous identified to be CPL Goh Hui Ling [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, October 14 from Ministry of Defence website:  https://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/press_room/official_releases/nr/2003/jan/05jan03_nr1.html; Ministry of Defence, Singapore. (2016). Collision at sea: Aft of RSS Courageous successfully lifted from seabed [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, July 29 from Ministry of Defence website: 
https://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/press_room/official_releases/nr/2003/jan/14jan03_nr.html; Singh, K. (2005, January 12). A long wait for. The Straits Times, p. H6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2016). Findings of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)'S inquiry into the collision between ANL Indonesia and RSS Courageous [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, July 29 from Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore website: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/media-centre/news-releases/detail/b034bf76-7605-4bad-9e4e-2a4c2404c740/!ut/p/z1/lY_dDsFAEEafxQNsdoxpty6XUGWltErtjWxpaUKJiAtPr03cqL-Yu0nO980crnnMdWGu-dZc8mNh9uW-1PbKdxR6EnDkByhATluRr_qEjrL5ogbQzAIp3SB0egN0J8D1f_kXoMrDh5HAh78OlAZ4HnfHW65P5rJjeZEdeZxAi5JM2EzYYDFKzIa1U0oZGlojAa0FQfmbfm53R30s7cJmZM17ICOsA2_0aw2DtqiAruoAITjNB_DF8HSI4pvKQi-XjTvkCmoq/
10. Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2016). Findings of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)'S inquiry into the collision between ANL Indonesia and RSS Courageous [Press release]. Retrieved 2011, July 29 from Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore website: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/media-centre/news-releases/detail/b034bf76-7605-4bad-9e4e-2a4c2404c740/!ut/p/z1/lY_dDsFAEEafxQNsdoxpty6XUGWltErtjWxpaUKJiAtPr03cqL-Yu0nO980crnnMdWGu-dZc8mNh9uW-1PbKdxR6EnDkByhATluRr_qEjrL5ogbQzAIp3SB0egN0J8D1f_kXoMrDh5HAh78OlAZ4HnfHW65P5rJjeZEdeZxAi5JM2EzYYDFKzIa1U0oZGlojAa0FQfmbfm53R30s7cJmZM17ICOsA2_0aw2DtqiAruoAITjNB_DF8HSI4pvKQi-XjTvkCmoq/
11. Nadarajan, B. (2004, March 27). Navy collision officers convicted. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Andrew, R. (2004, July 14). CJ Yong sympathises with naval officers, but dismisses appeals. Today, p. 6; Nadarajan, B. (2004, March 27). Navy collision officers convicted. The Straits Times, p. 1; To avoid a collision, the ANL Indonesia should have... (2003, December 29). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Nadarajan, B., & Wong, S. M. (2003, December 5). MPA omitted info in public report. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Andrew, R. (2004, July 14). CJ Yong sympathises with naval officers, but dismisses appeals. Today, p. 6; Henson, B. (2003, January 5). Collision off Pedra Branca. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Andrew, R. (2004, July 14). CJ Yong sympathises with naval officers, but dismisses appeals. Today, p. 6; Nadarajan, B. (2004, March 27). Navy collision officers convicted. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Loo, D. (2005, January 22). Govt files suit against Dutch ship's owners. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Brave 6 get rare police medal for ship rescue. (2003, October 11). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Chong, C. K. (2003, June 21). Navy collision officers in court to face criminal charges. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Goh, C. L. (2003, January 7). Mourning bride who never was. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Goh, C. L. (2003, January 21). Malaysian vessels step up intrusions into S'pore waters. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Nadarajan, B. (2003, January 15). Shorn-off portion of ship raised. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Nadarajan, B. (2003, November 17). Navy vessel collision trial to start today. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Nadarajan, B., & Wong, S. M. (2004, April 3). Navy collision officers fined. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Nadarajan, B., & Wong, S. M. (2003, December 29). Diary of a tragedy in the S’pore Straits. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Singh, K. (2005, January 12). A long wait for death cert? The Straits Times, p. H6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

To avoid a collision, the ANL Indonesia should have... (2003, December 29). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
 

Subject
Collisions at sea--Singapore
Law and government>>Security>>Navy
Accidents
Singapore--History, Naval--21st century
Events>>Disasters