A major incident in Western Australia occurred when the bulk carrier Korean
Star grounded in the vicinity of Cape Cuvier, within the port limits
of Carnarvon. The vessel went aground on 20 May 1988 as a result of cyclonic
weather conditions, which caused it to drag its anchor. The Korean Star was
declared a constructive total loss after it broke in two following the grounding.
About 600 tonnes of fuel oil were lost from the vessel. The National Plan
to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil was activated to respond to the spill.
National Plan dispersant and spraying equipment and a skimmer were transported
by road to Carnarvon. However, due to the inaccessibility of the area and
the rapid natural dispersion of the oil by wave action, major clean-up action
was not required.
The Korean Star sailed from Hong Kong to Cape Cuvier on 11 May 1988
in ballast with 19 crew.
The vessel arrived at anchorage one mile north of the salt loading facility
at Cape Cuvier on Friday 20 May at 1715 hours Western Standard Time (WST).
The weather was cloudy but fine, the wind North/North East force 3 and a slight
sea. The vessel anchored to the port anchor.
Once at anchor, deballasting commenced with the fore peak tank at 1800 hours
followed by No. 2 port and starboard in preparation for loading the next day.
This operation was completed at 2150 hours.
During the night the weather deteriorated. At 2000 hours the wind was north
east force 4. By midnight the wind had backed to north/north east force 6,
the sky overcast and the sea was very rough.
Due to the worsening weather the ship's Master ordered the engines on standby
and paid out a further three shackles on the port anchor cable. At this stage
there was no sign of the vessel dragging her anchor, however, due to his concern,
the Master maintained watches on the bridge and in the engine room.
At 0200 hours Saturday 21 May the vessel's position had not altered although
the wind speed had steadily increased to north/north east force 8. Engines
remained on standby and No. 2 ballast tanks were refilled. At 0400 hours the
wind was estimated at north/north east force 9. The weather was overcast
and raining with very high seas. Shortly after 0400 hours the wind backed to
north/north west and increased in intensity to force 10 (estimated over 60
Following this change in direction and increase in intensity it was observed
that the vessel was dragging and arrangements were made to heave up the anchor
and attempt to make for the open sea. The anchor was clear at 0423 hours and
the engines were put ahead in an attempt to steam out of the bay. By this time
the vessel had dragged close to the mooring buoys off the salt loading facility.
The wind was on the port side and the vessel heading in a north easterly direction
toward the shore. Very rough seas and a high swell estimated six to eight metres
was running in the bay.
The Master called for assistance from two tugs which were standing by in the
area. He requested that they push on his port quarter in an attempt to bring
the vessel's head to wind. This was not successful and the Master ordered full
ahead engines, hard to port rudder in an attempt to bring the bow up into the
wind. However, the vessel was unable to obtain steerage way and was blown toward
the shore. At 0450 hours port anchor was dropped and at 0500 the Korean
Star grounded at the base of cliffs approximately one mile from Cape Cuvier.
Assistance from the tugs was prevented by the prevailing weather and proximity
to the rocky coastline.
At 0800 hours the ship's log book records severe damage and oil pollution
in the vicinity of the ship. It was later found that there were three metres
of water in No. 3 and No. 4 holds and major damage to the ship's side at No. 2.
There was no apparent damage to Nos 4 and 5 hatches.
The vessel was grounded from the bow aft to No. 4 hatch and was severely pounded
by the strong swell. Subsequently the aft section split adrift at No. 4 hold
and was wedged against the rocks separate from the bow. Although grounded,
both sections continued to surge and yaw with the westerly swell.
The incident was monitored by local police and State Emergency Services (SES)
personnel who provided facilities for the successful evacuation of the crew.
This operation was directed by Carnarvon pilot Captain Tony Keane who managed
to clamber on to the ship from the rock ledge using a pilot ladder. He then
organised a flying fox supplied by the SES party. All crew members together
with limited baggage were successfully landed.
It was found that the vessel carried 614 tonnes of fuel oil at the time of
grounding. This was mainly in No. 1 and No.2 fuel oil tanks situated at No.
2 and No. 3 hatch respectively. Some eight tonnes of fuel oil were in the engine
room settling tanks. Also about 60 tonnes of diesel oil was carried in tanks
in the vicinity of the engine room. Following the wreck most of the oil escaped
into the sea and was dispersed by wave action. Pollution of the rock foreshore
extended some 10 miles north of the wreck and fouled the only sandy beach.
Arrangements were put in hand to provide equipment to combat this pollution,
however, due to the inaccessible location and the natural dispersion by wave
action, no significant pollution clean-up was attempted.
Arrangements were made by the owner and insurance representatives for a salvage
assessor to inspect the wreck. The vessel was declared a destructive total
loss as it was unable to be salvaged.
The wreck was left where it grounded.