Days later the Pasha Bulker was towed into Newcastle Harbour for repairs. .” The hull of the 40,000 tonne Pasha Bulker was strikingly red. “Can you see the ship?” Harvey asked as I got closer to Nobbys Beach. While waiting to load coal the Pasha Bulker ran aground during a major storm on June 8, 2007 on Nobbys Beach in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Before. Oh, and it wouldn’t be a good look if the salvors got her off the beach but lost control of her, resulting in her wrecking in or closer to the channel. Gripping eyewitness accounts of the ship sliding her way onto Newcastle’s doorstep were all over the radio now. Fifth anniversary of Pasha Bulker grounding - ABC (none) - Australian Broadcasting Corporation It's five years ago today that a massive bulk carrier was grounded on the sands of one of Newcastle's most popular inner-city beaches. It was quickly confirmed that there was no oil (or a miniscule amount at worst). “Oh, can I what . I looked through the windscreen at the foamy puffs of water lashing high over the deck. A comical moment unfolded when Gary Webb, Minister Tripodi, their staff and I trod down the headland track for the nightly media briefing. The vessel was patched up and eventually exited with no fanfare. It says: “Even with the resources available to NPC, including the collective local knowledge of the harbour master and pilots and the weather monitoring equipment at VTIC, the port corporation was not sufficiently responsive to the increasing seriousness of the situation that developed from the evening of June 7.”. And so Minister Tripodi and Gary Webb stood before the camera lights piercing the night and calmly said, well, there might be some… oil in the water. The Westpac helicopter had rescued all crew from the vessel and, with forecasts that the weather would ease, the Pasha Bulker appeared to be firmly grounded – for now.   No one in the inner sanctum will forget the evening of July 2. It pulsated back and forth from a. water-side equipment assembly zone at Carrington. Naval architects and hydrographic surveyors were looking at what she could and couldn’t withstand. By now the strong gale force winds are making the Pasha Bulker yaw through 60 degrees then, at 0625, her real problems begin: her anchor begins to drag but it is another 12 minutes, with the ship now 2.2 miles closer to the coast, before the chief mate realises the situation, calls the captain and tells him the ship has dragged ‘a little’. He said VTIC may have told the Pasha Bulker about the restricted area but it was "absolutely not" responsible for the way the master lost control. Although the full submission by the port corporation to the federal investigators was not released publicly, two excerpts included in the report quote the port corporation as saying it “does not accept” that its communications that day “would create any confusion” or have “adversely influenced the decisions of” any of any (ship’s) masters”. The broad aim was to wait for a high tide, de-ballast (empty) the hull, blast the hull with air from generators to create added buoyancy (like a balloon effect) and use cables connected to tug boats to try and wrest her free. 08.30am, June 8, 2007. The first report, of 60 pages, was handed down by a state government authority, NSW Maritime, on December 5, 2007. A slightly bearded man in his mid-30s dressed in orange overalls and pecking at his mobile device gave a no-nonsense glance across the table he was sitting at. Eleven o’clock departure time was an hour ago, yet Newcastle Harbour lay wide, flat, blue… and empty. .  /images/transform/v1/crop/frm/iKQx4aiD4Q7fvCgDvFeGgz/6ad8c3fa-721f-4512-9504-b3596f47fb98.jpg/r7_274_3071_2005_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg. After the grounding, investigators went to get the recordings that are automatically made of all communications between VTIC and the various vessels, only to find “the associated recording equipment was, however, not working [on the day of the grounding] and had not been operating since June 5”. “Other masters in the area may at least have been distracted by these communications. Things had to be explained factually and clearly. The Newcastle and Hunter Region will never forget the weekend when storms and floods closed down the heart of Newcastle, the Pasha Bulker went aground on Nobbys Beach and the levee system around Maitland was pushed to its limit. The demands to talk to the blokes in orange were hot now. The residents of Newcastle are celebrating this morning following the successful refloating of the Pasha Bulker which had run aground on Nobbys Beach during the storms of June 8. The vessel was towed to sea by three salvage tugs at about 9.40pm last night in front of a captivated audience of well-wishers. But read the reports together and it becomes evident that other factors were at play. ... now anchored 10 nautical miles off … If only ships could talk. ... Pasha Bulker (Where Did I Go Wrong?) Although the federal report still puts the overall responsibility firmly on the shoulders of the Pasha Bulker’s master, it lists a series of areas in which NPC could have done better on the day. The federal report again: “The communication by VTIC at 9.10am asking for Santa Isabel to leave the restricted area and two minutes later for Pasha Bulker to also do so probably had some influence on the subsequent decisions of their masters, even though it could not be ascertained exactly what action they took and when they took it. The operation would take time and might fail. We might have oil in the water, he said. After this time, the situation was more closely monitored and weather advisories were provided. Everyone wanted a chat. She had traveled about 3 kilometres before the captain reappeared on the bridge and took command of his ship, which was now out of … Two government agencies released reports on what went wrong - and right - on that fateful day. And so, nearly two weeks after the grounding, it was decided to wheel out Drew Shannon. With one exception, the state report gives NPC a clean bill of health, saying it “responded to the emergency in a very competent manner, exercising appropriate control and integrating with the other emergency services involved”. And wasn’t she just. Pasha Bulker. The meeting ended quickly.            Some months later Drew Shannon visited my office in Sydney and handed over a palm-sized chunk of rusty steel as heavy as a brick. While waiting to load coal the Pasha Bulker ran aground during a major storm on June 8, 2007 on Nobbys Beach in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. The sculpture titled "Grounded" marks the anniversary of the grounding of the Pasha Bulker in 2007. That created a few chuckles. A garish lipstick-coloured lump with white accommodation quarters jutting from the stern like high density home units - in the middle of Newcastle’s main beach. The first re-float attempt on the evening of June 28 failed due to a snapping tug cable (the entire precinct around the beach was evacuated should such an event result in a whiplashing cable reaching the shore and killing someone). The Pasha Bulker was held 11 nautical miles off shore so assessments could be undertaken. The meeting ended quickly. So what was the secret of the success, Minister? My unequivocal view was to go with what we knew, as scant and vague as the information was. Gripping eyewitness accounts of the ship sliding her way onto Newcastle’s doorstep were all over the radio now. .  Pasha Bulker now pointing out to sea. Scepticism amongst the journalists lifted. The journos wanted an expert from the ship. And so, nearly two weeks after the grounding, it was decided to wheel out Drew Shannon. Hard to tell. “By the early hours of June 8, a dangerous situation had already developed but it appears not to have been recognised until the corporation’s ‘incident control system’ was activated at about 8.30am. The day the federal report was released in 2008, I asked the head of the port corporation at the time, Gary Webb, whether the instruction to clear the restricted area had contributed to the demise of the Pasha Bulker. The Pasha as seen from the air. My phone rang all night - journalists all over the world wanting the latest on the Newcastle oil spill crisis. A priority was pumping the on-board fuel oil off, yucky stuff that would leave a hell of a mess if it ended up on the beach or coast. With my ex-journo juices flowing, I also called the chief of staff desk at National Nine News in Sydney where I’d been an on-road reporter for many years.  It didn’t take long for media calls from around the world to come in. The Pasha Bulker was built in 2006 by Sasebo Heavy Industries Co., and sails under the flag of Panama as a flag of convenience. The legendary reporter Peter Harvey happened to pick up and, “Yes Matty,” he said in his assuasive tuba-voice, “the chopper’s on its way”. Might be nothing. Shannon’s first media performance - after multiple practice sessions - was all but flawless. As we now know it was anything but a relaxing long weekend. But the biggest difference between the two reports lies in their treatment of what happened after the Pasha Bulker lifted its anchor, at about 6.30am. We stopped some 40 metres from the waiting media pack and, in hushed tones, discussed what to say. The tugs managed to pull the bow anti-clockwise until it was pointing at the ocean, but the horsepower on hand couldn’t rip the Pasha Bulker free. Unforgettable: Communications consultant Matthew Watson shakes hands with salvage master Drew Shannon near the Pasha Bulker after it was safely brought into the Port of Newcastle. Any attempt would be time consuming, weeks, months maybe. ONE of the most common questions was “how do you stop the vessel washing further onto the beach (or sliding uncontrolled off the beach) with tidal movements?”. Similarly, Australian Transport Safety Bureau team leader of marine investigations Michael Squires told me at the time that the bureau had "gone over and over" the path of the Pasha Bulker, especially the turn soon after 9am when it was inside the restricted area. Naturally we’d have to work closely and be on the same page in terms of facts and developments, especially in an environment where things could change frequently. Their only shield from the wind and the 18-metre white tongues of water, Mr Donaldson said, was the mass of the Pasha Bulker. Your ad blocker may be preventing you from "We can't say that the master definitely turned because of the information from the [information centre] but we do say that the instruction was unnecessary, unhelpful, of no benefit and may have adversely influenced the decisions of the master of the Pasha Bulker and other vessels," Mr Squires said. Your ad blocker may be preventing you from The next re-float attempt - courtesy of more malfunctioning gear - was put off until the evening of July 1. ‘SHE’S MOVING! Days later the Pasha Bulker was towed into Newcastle Harbour for repairs. There was no sign that an injured Panamax freighter was about to leave the people of this busy little sea port, to whom it … Yes, she might break up. The Pasha Bulker was gone in a matter of moments, towed into the inky Pacific. If it turned out there was no oil in the water, so what? It was refloated and moved to a safe location offshore on 2 July 2007 at 9:48 p.m. AEST before being towed to Japanfor maj… While aground, the Pasha Bulker was even listed for sale on eBay attracting bids up to $16 million, as “it could be converted to a hotel, floating restaurant, casino or retirement village.” In 2008, Pasha Bulker was renamed ‘Drake’ and returned to service. . My mobile phone rang. It … Look at the track of the Pasha Bulker and you see the vessel heading out to sea until 9.06am, when what both investigations describe as a badly executed turn began the vessel’s hour-long journey onto the shore at Nobbys. A block-and-tackle network criss-crossing the bow would significantly enhance the pulling power of each tug. The Hunter River foreshore was lined with well-wishers who clapped and cheered the salvage team. “It’s doable, but it takes time.”    With every passing day the media became hungrier for something new. I’d already spoken with Newcastle Port Corporation CEO Gary Webb (who had overall responsibility for the emergency response) and his media manager Keith Powell. At last, a breakthrough. And yes, the two official reports into the events of Friday, June 8, 2007, do lay the blame fairly and squarely on the South Korean in charge of the vessel. If it turned out there was no oil in the water, so what? Pasha Bulker now pointing out to sea. But read the reports together and it becomes evident that other factors were at play. I looked through the windscreen at the foamy puffs of water lashing high over the deck. The questioning was pointed. There were many variables that had to be worked around – night and day, tidal and current movements, wind, rain and inevitable equipment malfunctions. *** ONE of the largest industrial helicopters in Australia was secured to transport salvage equipment onto the Pasha Bulker. “The tugboats were just getting engulfed. Yanking at the vessel prematurely might result in on-board fuel oil spewing into the water and the vessel being torn apart. Look at the track of the Pasha Bulker and you see the vessel heading out to sea until 9.06am, when what both investigations describe as a badly executed turn began the vessel’s hour-long journey onto the shore at Nobbys. But it was the box seat to see what was going on. Grounded is an abstract representation of the ship’s bow. Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the The questioning was pointed. And the Pasha Bulker – repaired and refitted after the grounding and now known as the Drake – is still plying the coal trade, and was most recently in Newcastle in late March, taking a load to China. The ship had sufficient water ballast on board for the good weather conditions which continued for the next Everyone wanted a chat. Days later the Pasha Bulker was towed into Newcastle Harbour for repairs. It was a weird feeling not having the big interloping lady there after three weeks and three days. TEN years on, the popular narrative of the Pasha Bulker’s grounding on Nobbys beach is that the master of the ship was solely to blame for the events of that tumultuous morning. The exception covered a crucial area. The media warmed to him and this was instrumental in forming an indelible impression with the public. The Hunter River foreshore was lined with well-wishers who clapped and cheered the salvage team. At last, a breakthrough. I headed for my car, with only one destination in mind. being able to log in or subscribe. And the Pasha Bulker – repaired and refitted after the grounding and now known as the Drake – is still plying the coal trade, and was most recently in Newcastle in late March, taking a load to China. Waves crashing up against the Pasha just days after it ran aground at Nobbys. You didn’t just press a few buttons in such situations and see the beached ship off. He was straight-talking, no-nonsense and sure-footed. That created a few chuckles. The idea was to swing the bow until it was pointing at the ocean, then yank the vessel forward into deeper water. Who from Svitzer would be the “talking head” to explain how the salvage operation would work? We’re doing our best folks…. It just had to be clearly explained that identifying oil in the ocean at night is extremely difficult, so we wouldn’t know what we were dealing with until sunrise. We stopped some 40 metres from the waiting media pack and, in hushed tones, discussed what to say. Original music by … It brought time and reduced pressure when the media may have gone for the jugular. Many such tugs were based in Newcastle and had entered the treacherous waters off Newcastle at the height of the storm to try and rescue not only the Pasha Bulker but two other vessels that came close to beaching (a feat that would see the crews presented with bravery awards). “It’s like eating an elephant,” one quipped during a private moment. The latest word from Newcastle, Australia is to wait before re-floating the grounded coal ship “Pasha Bulker”. At the time my daughter lived in an apartment overlooking Newcastle Baths. There were many variables that had to be worked around – night and day, tidal and current movements, wind, rain and inevitable equipment malfunctions. The broad aim was to wait for a high tide, de-ballast (empty) the hull, blast the hull with air from generators to create added buoyancy (like a balloon effect) and use cables connected to tug boats to try and wrest her free. The “flexible plan” line was really wearing thin. Literally flinging away from the beach. My unequivocal view was to go with what we knew, as scant and vague as the information was. There were gasps. Matthew Watson is a former communications consultant for Svitzer Salvage. The first report, of 60 pages, was handed down by a state government authority, NSW Maritime, on December 5, 2007. Her infamous name was dropped, and she now moves around global waters as the Drake. With the tide high and three tug boats roaring to pull the Pasha Bulker free, exasperation fell over the media pack on the headland. In any case, given the difficult circumstances and the precarious situations some ships, including Pasha Bulker, were in, such unnecessary and irrelevant communications by VTIC could only cause confusion and were therefore inappropriate.” In another section, the federal report notes that just after 9am, the Pasha Bulker “helmsman brought the ship back to a heading of 140º and the wind was ahead”. . 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