NEW ZEALAND | ‘Quick-thinking pilot’ saved Schelde Trader

The charterers of the Schelde Trader that ran aground in the port entrance last Friday [Oct 28] are praising the Port of Tauranga for its quick actions.

Maersk’s Auckland based New Zealand country manager Julian Beavis says the Port was very quick off the mark (sic) in reacting to the incident.

“These things do happen very infrequently, but they do – and it’s the responsibility of everybody to be trained to deal with incidents when they happen. Everybody who was involved acted with great despatch, and I’m very grateful to the Port, and everybody down there for what they did.”

Dutch registered Schelde Trader is chartered by Maersk, and was leaving Tauranga for Noumea when her engine failed.

When the engine stopped the hydraulics failed, which meant steering was also lost. As the ship began to swing across the current, the Port of Tauranga pilot gave the command for the man on the bow to let go the port anchor.

The anchor slowed the ship enough so that when the Schelde Trader hit the rocks, it was a relatively gentle collision, compared to what could have happened.

Without the pilot’s quick actions, the 8000 tonne container ship would have struck the rocks at about 12 knots, causing serious damage to the ship. As it was she was able to be pulled free on the outgoing tide, only a few minutes after grounding.

The Port of Tauranga pilots train on simulators for a range of eventualities, says Port of Tauranga operations manager Nigel Drake.

Harbour pilots are Master Mariners who guide ships into and out of the port of Tauranga. It is a centuries old convention that uses local knowledge to ensure the safety of ships as they enter and leave ports around the world.

The Schelde Trader was scheduled to depart for Noumea on the Friday morning.  The pilot boarded about 10.30am, says Port of Tauranga Operations manager Nigel Drake.

“The pilot undertakes a passage plan with the master which is normal practice,” says Nigel. “He talks with the master of the vessel about the manoeuvre from the berth, the conditions both weather and tide prevailing, and any swell that might be encountered in the seas outside the harbour.”

In the case of the Schelde Trader, a relatively small 133 metre, 6,700 gross tonne container ship, draught was not an issue, says Nigel.

A single tug helped clear the ship from the berth, and stood by at the No 1 berth for its next job as the Schelde Trader entered the cutter channel. She rounded the turn and was on course to pass between B and C buoys when the engine stopped.


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