Environmental Impact and Salvage of M/V Pasha Bulker

Coal Ship Pasha Bulker

I’m happy to report that all crew members have been rescued from the ship! The two other ships which had made distress calls after dragging anchor, have been successfully towed to sea. Now focus is shifted to environmental concerns and salvage of the ship with reports ranging from optimism to environmental catastrophe. The consensus in the maritime world is that damage from fuel oil can be avoided if the weather allows them to pump out the ship’s tanks prior to any additional structural damage.

Questions do remain however. The company has reported that there was no failure of the anchors, engines and systems also that the crew is not to blame. Then what was the cause? Most frequently these cases are due to human error and failure to act with appropriate speed and caution. If a storm approaches most ships will ready the engines, ask for tug assistance and prepare to lower the second anchor. This is especially the case when a ship, like the Pasha Bulker was at the time, is “light” (not containing cargo) because more of the hull is up out of the water and exposed to the wind and sea.

With photos showing both anchors in a stowed position and no tugs in the area it is apparent that not all the precautions were taken. There were 54 ships in the anchorage so tugs might not have been available in sufficient number and using the second anchor is controversial but, as was the case with similar anchored ship grounding (like the APL Panama, Cape Mohican and Sealand Express incidents), human error always plays a role. The problem is that the people who are lest likely to admit error, the port authorities and shipping company, are also the most frequently responsible.

UPDATE: As we guessed all the facts are not in on the human element. The Sydney Morning Herald tells us:

The Newcastle Ports Corporation radioed 56 cargo vessels queuing to load coal at 5am yesterday and warned them to move out to sea. More warnings were issued on Thursday night. All but 11 vessels heeded the call.

Also of interest The Australian tells us:

The terrified crew of the Pasha Bulker said they had contemplated jumping ship as waves pounded the ship.

The wind turned south-southeast, pushing the Pasha on to the sand at Nobbys Beach, where it lay precariously last night with salvage crews unable to attach tugboats because of the weather.

Two of the ship’s crew had mild hypothermia and one was treated for an elbow injury.

Watch the narrated Slide Show slide show.

UPDATE: Read our other “Pasha Bulker” stories HERE.

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