From: Rick Rycroft, Associated Press
Published June 29, 2007 12:00 AM

Australian Crews Plan Second Bid To Float Beached Freighter

NEWCASTLE, Australia -- Salvage crews planned a second attempt to free a coal freighter carrying hundreds of thousands of liters (gallons) of fuel oil from a sandbar after two tow lines snapped in a failed bid overnight, officials said Friday.

The 40,000-ton Panama-registered ship Pasha Bulker had no cargo aboard when it ran aground in stormy conditions on June 8, but it was carrying more than 859,000 liters (227,000 gallons) of fuel and oil, prompting fears of an ecological disaster.

Taking advantage of an unusually high tide, two tugs attempted to pull the 35 million Australian dollar (US$29.5 million; euro22 million) coal carrier off the sand bank at Nobby's Beach in the eastern port city of Newcastle, around 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Sydney.

But cables to the tugs snapped Thursday night and Friday morning.

New South Wales state Ports Minister Joe Tripodi said the salvage efforts Friday were concentrating on maintaining the position of the vessel, which was secured only by a tow line to a third tug and by three sea anchors.

"Reconnecting the tow lines from the (tugs) Keera and Pacific Responder to the Pasha Bulker will be the focus for today," he said in a statement, adding that a helicopter will be used to reconnect the tow lines.

Newcastle Ports Corporation chief Gary Webb said the next attempt to move the ship would be with the high tide about 7:30 p.m. (09:30 GMT).

Webb said moving the vessel was a slow and steady process that might take several tides to complete.

Newcastle Mayor John Tate said the initial effort had budged the vessel, which engineers say has suffered severe structural damage from the pounding seas.

"The bow is moving; you see it moving up and down and it's rotated through a few degrees," Tate told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"I think there's more movement this morning than there was last nigh," he said.

"The best tide will be again this evening and I'm confident they're going to make more progress," he added.

Environmental crews were patrolling the beach searching for signs of leakage from the 225-meter (738-foot) ship.

Source: Associated Press

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