Lloyds List – 6 December 2007 by Michelle Wiese Bockmann
Pasha Bulker Master Avoids Prosecution for Grounding
NO charges will be laid against the master of the Pasha Bulker, despite an Australian report assessing his seamanship as “poor” and responsible for the vessel grounding on Nobby’s beach during “horrendous weather conditions” last June.
The highly critical report found that the unnamed master and chief engineer left the bridge for 10-15 minutes for breakfast during winds of up to 50 knots, while the bulk carrier “was in a precarious position”.
But New South Wales Ports Minister Joe Tripodi said prosecuters could not prove negligence beyond reasonable doubt, despite evidence that the master may have committed an offence.
NSW Maritime highlighted the master’s poor judgement and decision-making, including his failure to heed 16 separate storm warnings over two days, his decision to ride out the gale at anchor and not to ballast the ship for heavy weather .
The report said: “The handling of the ship while weighing anchor and trying to depart anchorage also contributed to the Pasha Bulker’s dire situation and eventual outcome.”
Deck officers gave investigators varying accounts of how the crisis was managed.
There were 56 ships at anchor waiting to enter the port of Newcastle on the day before the storm hit on June 8. Pasha Bulker, which had arrived on May 23, was anchored 4.6 km off the coast and was one of only nine vessels that remained in anchorage when the storm hit. The master put the vessel to sea at 0710 hrs, 20 minutes after it began to drag anchor.
The report found the master compounded errors, firstly allowing the ship to drag anchor within 2.2 km of the coast, and then failing to effectively use the vessel’s engines to counter the drift.
Concerns about the master’s performance will be forwarded to the flag state authority, asking for his qualification to be reviewed, the report said. A spokesman for the minister said the master was no longer employed by the shipowner, Japan-based Fukujin Kisen Kaisha.
Also noted was the Pasha Bulker’s refusal to take up offers of help from the Vessel Traffic Information Centre during five separate radio communications from 0720 hrs, until 30 minutes before it ran aground at 0950 hrs.
The ship remained stranded on Nobby’s beach for 25 days.
The report rejected maritime industry criticism that ships maintained unsafe ballast conditions because of the requirements of coal terminal operators, Port Waratah Coal Services.
It said: “PWCS has no contact with any ship regarding its ballast arrangements while at anchor, nor does PWCS make any specific directions… ultimately a ship’s ballast is left at the discretion of the individual master.”
The report found that two other bulkers that experienced difficulties, Sea Confidence and Pasha Bulker sister ship Betis, came close to shore during the storm.