MV Lake Illawarra

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Career (Australia) Civil Ensign of Australia.svg
Name: M.V Lake Illawarra
Operator: Australian Coastal Shipping Commission (later re-named Australian National Line)
Builder: BHP at Whyalla, South Australia  Australia
Launched: 1958
Out of service: 1975
Struck: 1975
Fate: Collided with Tasman Bridge in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia on 5 January 1975 at 9:27 p.m. and sank in 35 m (115 ft) of water
Status: Wreck
General characteristics
Type: Steel bulk ore carrier
Tonnage: 7,273.75 gross tons, 4,342.97 nett tons
Length: 446.15ft (135.62m)
Beam: 58.75ft (17.86m)
Draught: 31.4ft (9.54m)
Installed power: Oil-fired boilers, built by John Kempson (Australia) Pty. Ltd.
Propulsion: two Parsons-type steam turbines built by Cockatoo Dock and Engineering Co., Pty. Ltd., Sydney. Single-shaft.
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h)
Crew: 42

The MV MV Lake Illawarra was a Handysize bulk carrier of 7,274 tons in the service of the Australian National Line shipping company. This ship is known for causing the Tasman Bridge disaster when it collided with pylon 19 of Hobart's giant high concrete arch style Tasman Bridge on the evening of 5 January 1975 at 9.27pm.,[1][2][3] causing the deaths of 12 people.

Collision and sinking[edit]

The Lake Illawarra was loaded with zinc concentrate, for the Electrolytic Zinc Company works at Risdon, about 3 nautical miles up the River Derwent from the bridge.[2] This facility later became Pasminco and is now the Zinifex Zinc Refinery.

Just before the impact, Captain Boleslaw Pelc realised as he passed Rosny Point that he was off course, and traveling too fast. He tried to correct the heading, but only managed to bring the bows too far to port (left) and was now heading for the western shore. He urgently counter-corrected, but could not make the opening. Realising he was headed for a collision, he put the engines full astern, but the torque from her propeller caused the ship to slide in a broadside movement. She smashed into the 18th and 19th pylons.[1]

Model showing the submerged wreck and bridge debris

The collision brought down the two support pylons and a 127 metre (417 ft) section of steel and concrete.[3] There was evening traffic on the bridge, and although no vehicles were on the section that fell, four cars drove off the gap, with five people killed.[3] Two cars stopped on the edge, their occupants able to escape.[3] The section of four-lane highway landed on the ship's deck, sinking her in 35 metres (115 ft) of water to the south of the bridge. Seven of the ship's crew lost their lives in the accident.[1][3]

The ship and the debris pile were deemed unsafe to move; the ship's oil was pumped out, and the bow was removed at a later date.[1] The wreck is deep enough not to be a navigational hazard,[4] although movement caused by tides is considered enough of a threat to the bridge to be monitored closely by electronic sensors.[citation needed]

The subsequent Court of Marine Inquiry found that the Lake Illawarra was capable of passing beneath the bridge's central navigation span, but the captain instead attempted to pass through one of the eastern spans, due to a combination of strong tidal currents and inattention.[1][5] The Court found that Captain Pelc had not handled the Lake Illawarra in a proper and seamanlike manner, and suspended his master's certificate for six months.[1] A pilot service was introduced in response to the Court's findings.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Shipwrecks of Tasmania". Retrieved 20 August 2007. 
  2. ^ a b "Feature Article - The Tasman bridge". 1301.6 - Tasmanian Year Book, 2000. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 13 September 2002. Retrieved 4 April 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Tasman Bridge disaster". Clarence City Council. Retrieved 20 August 2007. 
  4. ^ Steven Dally (8 December 1995). "SAFE For another 70 years". The Mercury. Retrieved 4 April 2007. 
  5. ^ a b "Hobart, Tas: Bridge Collapse". Attorney General's Department-Emergency Management Australia. Retrieved 20 August 2007. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°51′52″S 147°20′45″E / 42.86444°S 147.34583°E / -42.86444; 147.34583