Beneath the surface of the waters off Flinders Island, the wreck of former bulk carrier the Iron Baron has found a peaceful existence at the bottom of the ocean.
The wreck of the Iron Baron now does not show any signs it was involved in one of the worst maritime disasters in Tasmania's history.
It has been 25 years since the Iron Baron ran aground in at Hebe Reef near the Tamar River, spilling thousands of gallons of oil and diesel into the river system and killing 25,000 little penguins.
On July 10, 1995, the Iron Baron had been hired by BHP and was bound for TEMCO at Bell Bay.
It was carrying 24,000 tonnes of manganese ore.
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As it approached the designated pilot boarding ground near Hebe Reef, the vessel was incorrectly positioned by the ship's crew.
Despite the efforts of the local marine pilot, the vessel ran aground at a speed of five knots about 180 metres north of the Hebe Reef beacon.
It was severely damaged, spilling hundreds of tonnes of heavy fuel oil and diesel oil into the river and environment.
Launceston man Ron Riley, who worked with the Launceston Port Authority around the time of the incident recalled it being "a wet and miserable night."
He said he heard unusual activity on the domestic radio and soon discovered the Iron Baron had run aground.
"I proceeded to the pilot station and shortly after the advance part of the salvage team arrived at the station," he said.
Fortuitously, the salvage master appointed by BHP and some other engineers had been attending a course nearby at the Australian Maritime College at Newnham.
Mr Riley said one of his first jobs as part of the salvage effort was to re-map the topography and maritime details of Hebe Reef, as they soon found out the existing maps and surveys did not have the detail they required for the clean-up effort.
"Due to the location of the Iron Baron only two remote stations could be used, one at the pilot station and the other at a strategically located back verandah of a house at Greens Beach," Mr Riley said.
"The survey was carried out at high tide at night to give the calmest water. It was quite eerie floating around over the reef in the dark at minimum speed and seeing depths of metre appearing under the hull."
OPERATION PENGUIN CLEAN-UP
The spilling of oil and diesel into the river resulted in a significant impact to the flora and fauna in the Tamar River, but particularly impacted the area's population of Little Penguins.
The incident occurred just prior to the penguin's breeding season at a time when the birds were returning to shore to build burrows.
Thousands of volunteers were mobilised to respond and offer assistance to the penguin's recovery from their exposure to the chemicals and the Low Head pilot station was converted to an animal rescue centre to house the response.
At the port of Bell Bay, the Seaman's Mission building was requisitioned for rehabilitating cormorants and filled with a layer of sand. Volunteers spent countless hours cleaning penguins, birds, rocks, pebbles and beaches by hand.
A tally of equipment used in the clean up showed there were 10,388 disposable overalls, 19,363 rubber gloves, 2312 pairs of gumboots, 77,400 garbage bags and more than 12,000 toilet rolls used.
LEARNING FROM A DISASTER
The Iron Baron incident is widely accepted as one of the worst maritime disasters in Tasmania's history.
TasPort's executive general manager for compliance and safety Sophie Grace said the incident had left a lasting impact on the business, even decades later.
"We still have some people who work for us who were there when it happened, so for us, it definitely still is front and centre in our minds," she said.
The Harbourmaster for Bell Bay at the time was the late Charles Black, who was named the incident controller for the oil spill.
"Charles, he was really good at what he did, and even now, his actions as the incident controller as used in training programs to teach people the right way to go about things," Ms Grace said.
With the advent of new technology and monitoring systems, TasPorts has implemented a raft of new measures since the incident that would help it to respond if anything of the like were to happen again.
Ms Grace said the organisation had learned a lot from the Iron Baron incident but a lot of the recommendations and strategies implemented would seem commonplace in today's maritime environment.
"A lot of the recommendations are things that we do as a matter of course nowadays, there's a lot more monitoring of weather, tides and conditions, that kind of thing," she said.
However, one of the major changes to emerge from the incident was the pilot boarding ground was moved further upriver, to allow for a longer lead in time for berthing at port.
"That was one of Charles' decisions, to actually move that up further," Ms Grace said.
A pilot boarding ground is a patch of water where a boat will stop to allow for local marine pilots to board before continuing on to docking.
Local pilots are used for vessel docking in all ports in Australia, and Tasmania due to the importance of local knowledge.
"The Tamar River is one of the most notoriously difficult stretches of water, so having a local pilot on board to guide a vessel in is paramount," Ms Grace said.
"Moving the pilot grounding station gives more leeway and provides more time for discussion between the pilot and the master about the best way forward."
She said moving the pilot station also provided more time to respond to any potential mechanical failures and to decide whether to abort the run in to port.
At the time of the Iron Baron incident, a local marine pilot did board the vessel but by the time they got to the bridge, the incorrect positioning had already been made and the damage was done.
Ms Grace said by the time the pilot got into place there was nothing they could do to stop the grounding and what actually happened was they took preventative steps to stop the grounding from becoming worse than it turned out to be.
Technology has also improved the potential to correct human error for all vessels in Tasmania.
TasPorts operates a remote vessel traffic services team who can monitor all vessels locations at all times across the state, which is run from the Launceston office.
"If a vessel as overshot its designated meeting place or the pilot boarding ground then the VTS operators can actually intervene and provide that information and assistance to the pilot. There is much more rigour and governance than there was before," Ms Grace said.
IRON BARON'S FINAL RESTING PLACE
The Iron Baron was re-floated on July 30, 20 days after it first ran aground. Mr Riley was there at the time and served as the pilot.
"I was also the pilot on board the vessel when it was re-floated. It lifted off so gently you would have even noticed that it happened," he said.
"I was told before I boarded to stay out of the wheelhouse during refloating just in case of catastrophic failure of the hull."
Mr Riley recalled a comment from one of the salvage crew from the mainland who said it was "lucky" the Iron Baron ran aground in the location it did because a few kilometres either side and the logistics of getting personnel to and from the vessel would have been difficult.
Due to the severe damage to the vessel and because of the perceived possibility of the vessel breaking in two and blocking the port, and the possibility of further oil pollution within the Tamar River System, the Port of Launceston Authority (PLA) refused entry to the vessel.
After extensive inspection of the vessel and discussions with the salvors, PLA and key federal agencies, the decision was made that the Iron Baron be scuttled off Flinders Island.