Friday, June 08, 2007

Grounded Ship 'Absolutely Belted' Off Australia Coast

Storm seas swept a 40,000 tonne coal ship with 21 crew on board onto a reef off an Australian beach sparking a major rescue operation, police said. The empty "Pasha Bulker" had been anchored off the coal port of Newcastle on Australia's east coast awaiting entry when waves as high as four metres and gale force winds swept it onto a reef at Nobbys Beach."We have a rescue operation under way with a tug boat hoping to pull the ship back out to sea," said a police spokesman. "There is 21 crew on board and no one has been injured." Eyewitnesses said the ship had initially hit the reef but had since been blown onto offshore sandbanks at Nobbys Beach. "It's getting absolutely belted at the moment, it's an amazing sight, the spray coming right over the top of this huge tanker," one eyewitness told local media. Newcastle is one of Australia's largest coal export terminals but delays in loading have resulted in ships queuing some two to three km offshore. Newcastle Port authorities said there were currently 58 ships anchored offshore. The ships will supply coal to power stations in Asia, especially Japan, but also Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong.
Port authorities said the storm and the stricken Pasha Bulker are not expected to delay loading, as ships routinely wait for calmer conditions before entering port and the ship had not blocked the entrance to the port. "Its hard to see this having a major impact on the coal market. One ship would not make such a huge difference," said one coal industry analyst.

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