Non-voyage for the Barkly Pearl

Elise Van Aken and Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Norwegian recovery vessel The Falcon anchored off Point Moore on Friday January 1 2020.
Camera IconNorwegian recovery vessel The Falcon anchored off Point Moore on Friday January 1 2020. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

The ship at the centre of a mysterious disappearance and damage incident has returned to a WA port today after its attempt to be towed to Indonesia was thwarted.

Damaged livestock carrier the Barkly Pearl left the Port of Geraldton this morning at around 1am, bound for the Abrolhos Islands where it was set to be loaded onto the Falcon heavy lift vessel.

But the Mid West Ports Authority today announced due to weather parameters being “exceeded”, the operation was aborted.

The Falcon will remain at anchor at the site, while the Barkly Pearl and three tug boats involved in the operation will return to Geraldton.

The damaged Barkly Pearl at Geraldton Port on December 3.
Camera IconThe damaged Barkly Pearl at Geraldton Port on December 3. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

The next window of opportunity has been forecasted to open up on January 6, but this will not be confirmed until closer to the time.

Yesterday the Mid West Ports Authority announced final approvals had been received by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority for the heavy lift operation of the Barkly Pearl onto the Norwegian cargo vessel.

The location in deep water on the north-east side of the Abrolhos Islands was selected as it protection from heavy ocean conditions and a sandy seabed, ith the operation identified as low-risk for the area’s marine environment.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development was tasked with monitoring the operation, while the AMSA worked with the vessel owners and operators to coordinate the ship and her crew safetly departing Australian waters.

The Falcon recovery vessel anchored off Point Moore late on Friday and was set to partly submerge so the Barkly Pearl could fit into the gap on the ship.

They would have both then set en route to Surabaya, Indonesia where the Barkly Pearl will be repaired.

The livestock carrier spent nearly eight weeks in Geraldton after it mysteriously limped into the harbour with serious hull damage on November 3.

Before Christmas, WA Ports Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the AMSA investigation was continuing but the circumstances surrounding the vessel’s disappearance, damage and reappearance seemed less suspicious than first thought.

Alannah MacTiernan
Camera IconAlannah MacTiernan Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

AMSA said the vessel was en route from Singapore to collect livestock in Fremantle, but unexpectedly turned around, heading towards Indonesia and going off the radar.

The 28-year old Marshall Islands vessel emerged five days later, 120km from Geraldton.

Her crew has been sequestered on the ship for its entire stay, with Ms MacTiernan saying they were afforded care packages and socially distanced human contact from Western Australia.

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