Faulty ship gets the old heave-ho

Tiffanie Turnbull & Geoff VivianCountryman
The livestock carrier Barkly Pearl is loaded on to the heavy-lift ship The Falcon near the Houtman Abrolhos Islands.
Camera IconThe livestock carrier Barkly Pearl is loaded on to the heavy-lift ship The Falcon near the Houtman Abrolhos Islands. Credit: Department of Transport

A bulk livestock carrier caught travelling through Australian waters with a huge hole in its hull has been banned from our shores for two years — the longest ban ever handed out.

The Singapore-owned Barkly Pearl left the Port of Geraldton for Indonesia last weekend after being loaded onto an enormous, semi-submersible ship carrier.

The 91m-long ship had been docked in Geraldton for two months after authorities spotted it with serious hull damage on November 3, which still remains unexplained.

The Barkly Pearl was steaming from Singapore to collect livestock from Fremantle when it suddenly turned around and headed towards Indonesia.

It was spotted five days later, 120km from Geraldton near Kalbarri, and directed to immediately dock at the nearest safe harbour at the Port of Geraldton.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority feared the ship would sink due to a large hole in its hull, wreaking havoc on the surrounding environment.

On January 7, the Barkly Pearl made its second and finally successful attempt to be lifted on to a heavy ship — the Falcon — near the Abrolhos.

As a farewell gift, the ship was handed a 24-month ban from entering or using an Australian port, which was double other recent bans handed out by AMSA.

AMSA general manger operations Allan Schwartz said the Australian public had an expectation that any vessel operating or travelling through Australian waters was seaworthy.

Built in 1993, the 5475 gross tonnage ship is owned by Drako Shipping, of Singapore.

Mr Schwartz said the owners of the ship had been negligent in their maintenance of the vessel, put the lives of the seafarers on board at risk, and posed a threat to the marine environment.

“This is a significant decision,” he said.

“It’s the first time a vessel has been banned from Australian ports for this length of time and it will certainly affect the commercial operation of the vessel.”

A Mid West Ports spokeswoman said sea fastening and associated inspections had been carried out in preparation for the Falcon to sail from Abrolhos Island to Surabaya in Indonesia.

The crew remained on board for the full 65 days.

A first attempt at loading on January 2, which required the specialised lift vessel to partly submerge, was unsuccessful so the Barkly Pearl returned to port to await safer weather.

Five days later, the Barkly Pearl was successfully loaded on to the Falcon to begin its journey home.

A photograph of the loading, captured by Department of Transport WA, went viral last week with calm weather allowing a film of coral spawn to be visible in the images.

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