Pasha Bulker – A Decade Later

Today marks ten years since the MV Pasha Bulker ran ashore during the disastrous storm that hit the Hunter in 2007. The story of the Pasha holds a special place within Newcastle history; however, few Novocastrians are familiar with Varley’s unique role within the vessel’s salvage operation. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane…

On the morning of June 8th 2007, residents of Newcastle awoke to howling winds, pounding rain and an enormous container ship perched on Nobby’s Beach – arguably Newcastle’s most scenic and popular stretch of coastline. The sight drew massive crowds and media attention over the following weeks, not only from Hunter residents, but throughout Australia.

As to why the Pasha ran ashore, a fascinating story later emerged. It is believed that local coastguards sent warnings of the approaching storm to all container ships parked off the Newcastle coast, which included the Pasha Bulker, and suggested that the vessels relocate further out to sea and anchor. This advice, however, was either ignored or not properly received by the Pasha's crew. As a result, the storm hit that evening and the Pasha was caught unprepared, being carried all the way in to the beautiful Newcastle shore.

The ship’s twenty two crew members were successfully rescued from the vessel almost immediately, expertly carried ashore by helicopter. The Pasha itself, however, sat on the sand of Nobby’s for almost a month, during which time plans were hatched to salvage the ship and restore the beach to normality.

Varley was commissioned to play an integral part in the salvage and re-floating efforts, thanks to the company’s long and rich history as one of the region’s most reputable marine service providers. The first task carried out by Varley employees was to supply labour and equipment for necessary repairs to damaged holds whilst the vessel was beached at Nobby’s. These efforts ensured that the ship did not break apart or sink whilst ashore for almost a month. Several brave Varley workers were carried on to the vessel by helicopter, battling dangerous seas and strong winds when boarding.

Weeks later, during the evening of the 2nd July, once the vessel was deemed fit to remove from the shore without risk of sinking, Varley-modified tugs were selected to assist the haul: read The Herald’s full analysis of the removal process here. After a slow and cautious process involving several attempts, the ship was finally removed from the beach and parked in nearby Newcastle Harbour.

During the Pasha’s time in the Harbour, Varley completed major works to further secure the vessel for its journey back to Asia. This included the manufacture and installation of stiffener beams on the outside of the ship’s hull, which offered extra strength for the upcoming tow, and also the manufacture and installation of towing assemblies specifically suited to the vessels exact requirements.

Following Varley’s hard work aiding the vessel’s recovery and restoration, the Pasha Bulker was eventually tugged out of Newcastle Harbour and all the way to Japan, where it was further restored, rebranded the MV Drake and continues to operate throughout international waters to this day (including a recent visit back to Newcastle).

We’d love to hear your own recollections of the Pasha Bulker’s visit to Newcastle, so please don’t hesitate to share your stories by commenting on this post.