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Pasha Bulker anniversary: 10 years since coal ship ran aground on Newcastle beach during storm

Dan Cox, Thursday June 8, 2017 - 05:29 EST
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The coal ship Pasha Bulker ran aground on Newcastle's Nobbys Beach on June 8, 2017. - ABC

Ten years ago Newcastle made international headlines when the coal ship Pasha Bulker ran aground on Nobbys Beach during a deadly east coast low.

The storm killed nine people, including a family of five on the New South Wales Central Coast, and .

Early on the morning of June 8, 2007 the Newcastle Port Corporation radioed the 56 ships waiting off the coast and warned them to move out to sea.

The Pasha Bulker was one of the last to do so and by the time the storm hit, the bulk carrier could not clear the coast.

That morning, locals had started calling ABC Newcastle to report the Pasha Bulker looked like it was in trouble.

"Mate, it's side-on on the beach, and waves are crashing over everywhere — straight over the funnel," caller Chris said.

"It's spectacular. There it goes again. Waves are just going straight over the top of it."

Local man Andrew rang and described what he was seeing on Nobbys Beach that day.

"The ship's called the Pasha Bulker, and it's getting absolutely belted at the moment," he said.

"It's an amazing sight. The spray coming right over the top of this huge tanker is just incredible and the crowd is starting to build.

"As dangerous as it is, it's almost spectacular."

'You can't leave that ship there'

Within four hours of the ship running aground, 22 Filipino and Korean crew members were winched to safety in a dangerous operation coordinated by the region's rescue helicopter.

Several ship's masters, whose vessels got into trouble that day, were .



John Tate was the city's lord mayor at the time and recalled that news travelled fast.

"It's a hard thing to say but there were a number of pluses that came out of this, not the least of which the number of people that came to Newcastle," he said.

"Many said to me, 'That's a beautiful beach. You can't leave that ship there', and I said, 'Well, I'm not going to'."

Danish company Svitzer was awarded the salvage operation contract.

It took three attempts to refloat the ship, which stayed on the reef for nearly four weeks.

The bulk carrier was moved around 90 degrees in preparation, with the ship's rudder suffering some damage during the operation.

Oil from the ship's propeller also leaked into the ocean, but the NSW Ports Minister at the time said that would not cause too much of a problem.



After 25 days, the Pasha Bulker was finally towed out to sea at high tide, by three tug boats.

It was then held 20 kilometres off the Newcastle coast and was inspected by divers to determine the extent of hull damage.

Minor repairs to the ship were undertaken in Newcastle Harbour before it was towed away for major repairs in Japan.

Salvage 'a remarkable feat' says former mayor

"It was a remarkable feat," Mr Tate said about the salvage operation.

"The other thing that was a concern to me is that it might break up, and we'd have had oil and up and down the coast.

"Newcastle, to the credit of all those who did the job, came out of that unscathed."

The Japanese owners of the Pasha Bulker paid for the $1.8 million cost of the salvage operation.

The NSW government did not press charges against the ship's master because negligence could not be proved "beyond reasonable doubt".

Part of the Pasha Bulker's rudder, which broke off during the salvage operation, is now part of a beachside sculpture.


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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