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From the Sydney Morning Herald -

Human error was the cause of the latest crash of a vessel from Sydney Ferries' accident-prone fleet, a report by the NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigations has found.

No-one was injured when the RiverCat Betty Cuthbert slammed into a moored yacht and motor launch on January 11 this year after the master had earlier discovered a problem with the starboard propulsion unit.

In a report released today, the investigators said the master of the vessel had locked the Starboard propulsion unit into a centred position and was taking the vessel to a shipyard at Balmain when the accident occurred.

The Betty Cuthbert unexpectedly turned sharply to port and the master was unable to regain control before the vessel crashed.

The investigation found the RiverCat was moving too quickly when the accident occurred and Sydney Ferries' operations controller had failed to recognise the risks involved with the master taking it back to the shipyard.

The report also found wiring on the vessel was in poor condition and some safety-critical components were not readily identifiable or secured.

It called for a quality assurance program to be implemented at Sydney Ferries' Balmain shipyard.

"An in-house quality assurance regime requires people with the requisite skills, knowledge and experience, and OTSI notes that Sydney Ferries has very few employees with a detailed knowledge of marine electronics or hydraulics," the report said.

Acting Sydney Ferries chief executive Chris Oxenbould promised to implement all of the recommendations from the report.

"Sydney Ferries is committed to the highest standards of safety," Rear Admiral Oxenbould said in a statement.

There have been at least eight Sydney Ferry crashes since 2004, including three involving the Betty Cuthbert.

The state government has refused to rule out leasing ferries from the private sector and contracting out maintenance as a way of dealing with the maintenance and safety problems.

Former navy rear admiral Geoffrey Smith will take over as Sydney Ferries chief executive later this month, following the resignation of Sue Sinclair in February.

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