MV Sygna

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MV Sygna 1974.jpg
The Sygna shipwreck on Stockton Beach in November 1974.
Name: Sygna
Owner: J. Ludwig Mowinckels Rederi[citation needed]
Builder: Austin and Pickersgill, Sunderland[citation needed]
Yard number: 845[citation needed]
Launched: 1967
Out of service: 26 May 1974
Identification:IMO number6800593
Fate: Ran aground on Stockton Beach, New South Wales, Australia during storm on 26 May 1974
General characteristics
Type: Bulk carrier
Tonnage: 53,000
Length: 217.3 m (713 ft)
Beam: 32.16 m (106 ft)
Draught: 13.31 m (44 ft)
Installed power: 7cyl. 2T EV B&W (Harland & Wolff, Belfast), 16.100 bhp[citation needed]

MV Sygna was a 53,000 tonne Norwegian bulk carrier and then shipwreck on Stockton Beach in the Port Stephens LGA in New South Wales, Australia.[1] The ship ran aground during a major storm on 26 May 1974 and the wreck became an icon and landmark for the local area,[2][3][4][5][6] until the visible remains of the wreck collapsed into the sea in 2016.[7]



During May 1974 the New South Wales coast was being battered by large storms that brought heavy swells off both Sydney and Newcastle. Newcastle port reported a swell of over 17 m (56 ft) at the entrance.

Sygna was on its maiden voyage, waiting for a load of 50,000 tonnes of coal destined for Europe at the time of the accident. It was anchored 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) off Newcastle when the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe storm warning and directive for ships to move out to sea. Seven of the ten ships anchored off Newcastle did so; Sygna was not one of them.


Early the following morning, with winds gusting at 165 km/h (89.1 kn), the captain issued orders to set sail. However, even with its engines at full-ahead Sygna was unable to make any headway and the storm turned it parallel to the beach. It is reported that within 30 minutes it had run aground on Stockton Beach.

With heavy seas pounding the stricken ship, its captain radioed a Mayday and gave the order to abandon ship. An Iroquois helicopter from RAAF Williamtown’s Search and Rescue Squadron flown by Flight Lieutenant Gary McFarlane, attended the scene and slowly rescued the 31 trapped sailors from the ship in near cyclone conditions. No one was injured or killed in the incident. McFarlane was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC), with other members of his crew receiving commendations for their heroic efforts during the rescue.

Sygna lost approximately 700 tonnes of oil during the accident. This oil was mostly dispersed by the heavy seas, and no cleanup or recovery action was undertaken.

Salvage operations[edit]

Sygna as seen from the southern end of Stockton Beach, 7.7 km (5 mi) from the wreck.

After the storm had subsided the salvage operation commenced. The ship was swung around, which caused the heavier stern section to sink into deeper water. This caused the ship to break its back.

On 4 September a salvage team led by Japanese millionaire Kitoku Yamada refloated the ship after repairing several holes in the hull and then pumping out thousands of tonnes of water. The stern section was refloated first, followed by the bow, which had been resting deep in the sand. The bow remained afloat but unfortunately for the salvagers the stern again went aground about 80 m (262 ft) out from the beach and gradually settled in the sand as salvage crews stripped it of all items of value.

In November 1974 another salvage attempt was made of the stern of Sygna. This caused a very heavy oil spillage, which spread along a 16 kilometres (10 mi) stretch of Stockton Beach. Bulldozers attempted to bury the oil in the sand above the high-water mark. After lying in Salamander Bay in Port Stephens for almost two years the bow section was towed away and broken up in Taiwan.


The stern lay on Stockton beach for many years, slowly decaying from the harsh elements in its environment. It was an icon and landmark for the local area. According to the Newcastle port authority, the Sygna is the last of 59 ships which have been lost on Newcastle shores, although it was first feared that the MV Pasha Bulker would join it as a new Newcastle icon after it ran aground on Nobby's Beach (8.4 kilometres (5 mi) south of the Sygna wreck) on 8 June 2007. The Pasha Bulker was successfully re-floated on 2 July 2007 leaving Sygna with its title.

On 14 January 2010 it was reported that the National Parks and Wildlife Service and shipping experts believed that the Sygna could rust to the waterline within ten years.[8] During storms on the weekend of 4–5 June 2016, the remaining superstructure collapsed into the ocean, leaving only a small part of the hull still showing above the waterline.[9]

Degeneration of the Sygna over time
1984 (10 years)
1984 (10 years)
February 2004 (30 years)
November 2004 (30.5 years)
August 2005 (31 years)
June 2009 (35 years)
August 2016 (42 years)
Media related to IMO 6800593 at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ "Flashback to the infamous 1974 storm/swell. Sygna Stockton Wreck". Coastal Watch. 16 June 2007. Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2017. Even with her engines full-ahead, Sygna was unable to make any headway and the force of the storm turned her parallel to the beach. Within 30 minutes she was aground on Stockton Beach.
  2. ^ "The Sygna - 40 years on". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 22 May 2014. Archived from the original on 23 March 2017. After stranding itself at Stockton Bight in 1974, wreckage of the 53,000 ton freighter, known as the Sygna, has become part of Newcastle's landscape.
  3. ^ "Sygna Shipwreck Film 1974". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 25 May 2004. Archived from the original on 21 September 2004.
  4. ^ "Major Oil Spills in Australia: Sygna, Newcastle, 26 May 1974". Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Archived from the original on 2 June 2009.
  5. ^ "Sygna". Newcastle Port Corporation. Archived from the original on 8 November 2003.
  6. ^ "Australia's biggest shipwreck". Australian Defence Force. 4 May 2006. Archived from the original on 11 December 2007.
  7. ^ "Sygna: Anniversary of famous Stockton Beach shipwreck". Port Stephens Examiner. 27 May 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  8. ^ Kelly, Matthew (14 January 2010). "Hunter's famous shipwreck Sygna could be history in 10 years". The Newcastle Herald. Fairfax Media. p. 1. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  9. ^ "Rust in peace: famous Sygna wreck has finally been claimed by the ocean". The Newcastle Herald. Fairfax Media. 6 June 2016. Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°51′32.94″S 151°50′40.96″E / 32.8591500°S 151.8447111°E / -32.8591500; 151.8447111