The ATSB has found that the grounding of
on Nobbys Beach on 8 June 2007 occurred despite a gale warning that
should have prompted the master to ballast the ship for heavy
weather and take it to sea. A number of other ships also failed to
take to sea.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation found that
Pasha Bulker's master had an inadequate understanding of
heavy weather ballast, anchor holding power and the limitations of
Newcastle's weather exposed anchorage.
The investigation also found that a number of other ships
attempted to ride out the gale at anchor and the majority dragged
their anchors. A number of masters did not appropriately ballast
their ships and many did not understand Newcastle Vessel Traffic
Information Centre's purely advisory role, expecting that it would
instruct or inform them to put to sea at an appropriate time. It
was also found that the substantial ship queue increased the risks
in the anchorage and resulted in another near grounding, a near
collision and a number of close-quarters situations at the
On 23 May, the Panamanian registered bulk carrier
Bulker anchored about two miles off the coast near Newcastle
and joined the queue of 57 ships to wait its turn for loading coal.
The ship was ballasted for the good weather conditions. Newcastle
anchorage is suitable only in good weather and nautical
publications contain warnings about the local weather conditions
and recommend that masters put to sea before conditions become
On the morning of 7 June, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a
gale warning for the area. Winds were expected to increase to 45
knots, with gusts up to 63 knots, after 0400 on 8 June with high
seas and a heavy swell. At midday,
Pasha Bulker's master
deployed additional anchor cable and decided to monitor the weather
and the ship's anchor position.
By midnight, the southeast wind was gusting to 30 knots and
ships began dragging their anchors. Newcastle Vessel Traffic
Information Centre advised those ships that were dragging their
anchors. Only seven ships had put to sea in the deteriorating
weather while another had weighed anchor to berth in the port.
By 0600 on 8 June, the wind was gusting to nearly 50 knots and
Pasha Bulker was amongst 27 ships still at anchor. At
0637, when the master was certain that the anchor was dragging, he
decided to weigh anchor. At 0748, the ship got underway and for
more than an hour, moved in a northeast direction parallel to the
coast about one mile away with the wind on its starboard bow.
At 0906, the master decided to alter course to put the wind on
the ship's port bow and clear the coast in a southerly direction.
The course change in the extreme weather was poorly controlled and
Pasha Bulker's heading became south-westerly instead of
south-southeast as intended. The ship then rapidly approached
Nobbys Beach and the master's desperate attempt to turn the ship to
starboard to clear the coast inevitably led to its grounding at
0951 with both anchors in their hawse pipes.
The ATSB is pleased to report that safety actions have already
been taken following the incident but has issued a number of other
recommendations and safety advisory notices with the aim of
preventing similar incidents in the future.
Copies of the report can be downloaded from the ATSB's internet
www.atsb.gov.au Media contact: 1800 020 616