Fremantle’s harbourmaster says a rare and impossible-to-predict ‘wind bomb’ caused two ships to break their stern moorings at the West Australian port in August.
The general cargo vessel AAL Fremantle and the car carrier Grand Pioneer, were discharging cargo on 17 August as 35km/h wind gusts jumped to 110km/h in a matter of minutes. Both vessels swung away from their North Quay berths and the AAL Fremantle came into contact with product tanker Parmelia I which was docked near the Fremantle Rail Bridge. The vessel then came in contact with the Fremantle Rail Bridge as well, causing damage to the scaffolding and an overhead power line.
Tug crews worked through the night to rein in both the vessels. The AAL Fremantle was moved to Victoria Quay for inspection. Initial assessments showed no exterior damage sustained by either the AAL Freemantle or the Parmelia I and no injuries or pollution were reported.
Austral Asia Line, operators of the AAL Fremantle, said the bollard securing the ship’s stern lines broke off the quay under the stress of “sudden and severe winds”. It is understood the Grand Pioneer was sharing the failed bollard and also lost its stern lines.
Fremantle Ports harbourmaster Allan Gray said a gale watch, which requires crews to tie vessels down with extra ropes, was not ordered because Weather Bureau warnings in place did not warrant it. Capt Gray described the weather phenomenon that hit the port as a ‘wind bomb’, lasting about 15 minutes. ”In the port here, generally our wind comes up at a gradual rate so you get plenty of warning and you can stabilise things well beforehand,” he said. “On Sunday night there was a sudden increase in wind which was quite exceptional and something we haven’t seen here before, to my knowledge.”