My thanks goes to David Evans of Newcastle for passing on the images that support the news items from the 9th and 10th June 2007, and we thought we had excitement here in Tasmania. Bulk Carrier “Pasha Bulker” details:
- 225 metres in length.
- 53,000 tonnes deadweight without ballast.
- Twin hull construction.
- Twin screw propulsion.
(Images are at the bottom of the page.)
The report from the Sydney Morning Herald 9th June 2007
“THE Pasha Bulker first caught the eye of Merewether residents when it emerged through the grey shadows of pelting rain several hundred metres off shore shortly after 8.30am yesterday.
Black smoke spewing from its funnel, the ship turned to face the south as the captain tried to head back out to sea, but a swell of almost 18 metres made it almost impossible. Reporters tracked the ship as it was pushed further north by the massive swell. Its engines still powering, the bulk carrier was pushed backwards past Merewether Beach and then Newcastle Beach by the huge southerly swell.
The ship's stern appeared to ram the reef off Newcastle ocean baths, and then again off Cowrie Hole. With huge waves crashing over its bow, it slipped further north.
There, it was shunted off the reef, its rear still facing the shore.
With the aid of the incoming tide, the Pasha seemed to free itself and turn north towards Nobby's Lighthouse. As it did, the relentless pounding of waves and winds topping 100kmh pushed its bow towards the beach.
Shortly after 9.30am the ship came to rest on the shallow reef midway between Fort Scratchley and the lighthouse, the tide inching it closer to the shore as the morning wore on.
The Newcastle harbour master, Tim Turner, said the ship was among 56 sitting off the Newcastle coast on Thursday night that were warned of the danger approaching from the deep low pressure system forming off the coast.
By 7.30 yesterday morning all but 11 had heeded the warning.
Mr Turner said it was still too early to say whether the captain erred in not getting his bulk carrier out to sea earlier.
"I understand that the ship did try to move out last night before getting into trouble," he said.
There was speculation that the Pasha had dumped its water ballast before trying to move offshore on Thursday night, removing a weight that might have given the ship's propellers more chance of battling the giant seas. Such carriers usually dump ballast before entering port, but the Pasha was not due in the harbour until next Tuesday.
Mr Turner said the corporation had no power to order the ships offshore. "We can only advise them, and we did that on several occasions."
Report 10th June 2007
“Some ships ignored warning to leave. HOW could this happen?
As the stricken Pasha Bulker lay poised to flood Newcastle's beaches with 700 tonnes of shipping oil last night, an investigation was being planned into why it and other vessels did not heed warnings to get away from the shore before yesterday's storms struck.
Union groups said ships flying flags of convenience, such as the Panama-registered Pasha Bulker, were less safe than national shipping lines, and said the potential disaster had been an accident waiting to happen. The claims were angrily rejected by the ship owner's association as the ship is relatively new.
The NSW Ports Minister, Joe Tripodi, rushed to Newcastle, saying the situation was "clearly unacceptable", but refusing to be drawn on its causes.
Mr Tripodi, anticipating criticism over delays at the clogged coal-loading port, promised that NSW Maritime would investigate.
The Newcastle Ports Corporation radioed 56 cargo vessels queuing to load coal at 5am yesterday and warned them to move out to sea. Other warnings were issued on Thursday night. All but 11 vessels heeded the call.
There was speculation the ships' captains might have taken a calculated risk that they could ride out the storm.
A spokeswoman for the corporation described the weather as extraordinary. There is a 17.95 metre swell. We knew the weather that was coming, and they were warned, but there have been issues with [the ships leaving]."
Twenty-one crew members, two suffering mild hypothermia and one with a minor arm injury, were winched from the Pasha Bulker's deck yesterday afternoon.
Witnesses said last night that creases were visible in the ship's hull, caused by the pounding surf.
NSW Maritime could not confirm reports of oil washing up, saying it might be bilge water.
The NSW Nature Conservation Council said that if the vessel split apart, the result would be an ecological disaster because the ship is marooned directly in front of heritage-listed sand dunes and an iconic beach. Hazardous material teams, the State Emergency Service and maritime engineers were on site last night monitoring the ship. The Pasha Bulker has 700 tonnes of fuel oil, 38 tonnes of diesel and 40 tonnes of lube oil.
As yet there was no consensus on how to free the ship or prevent it from splitting apart and drenching the coast in oil.
A team from United Salvage, a marine salvage company, arrived at the site yesterday with a contract from the owners to try and save the ship.
"We don't know how it will be done yet; that will be decided amongst the authorities because it's on a very public beach and there's a risk of pollution," said a director of United Salvage, Ian Hoskison.
A Maritime NSW spokesman said there might be a chance to refloat the vessel at high tide today, but predictions of continuing bad weather are forecast."
Since the stranding the ship has added ballast water to a section of the vessel to stabilise its position while plans are made to try and refloat her. No one is ready to accept the fact that it could become another wreck on the Central Coast of New South Wales similar to the ship grounded in 1974 off Stockton.
The ship was eventually refloated off the reef with the use of three ocean going salvage tugs and towed into the Newcastle harbour for a thorough marine survey to assess the ability to put to sea under its own power. Unfortunately, the beaching damaged the rudder and propeller thus necessitating towage to Japan for major repairs. The ship left Newcastle 23rd July 2007 for the long slow journey to Japan. So ending the saga of the "Pasha Bulker".
Will it ever return to Australian waters? Who knows.
Below are images taken by a crew member of one of the ships the "Selkirk Settler" caught up in the wild storms which gives an insight to the heavy seas that put the Pasha Bulker aground at Nobby's Beach. Then the stranding of the Pasha Bulker.