With Cyclone Veronica bearing down on Port Hedland, collaboration between the Pilbara Ports Authority (PPA), BHP and Roy Hill saw a near disaster averted involving a ship chartered by Roy Hill last month.

Cyclone evacuation orders had already been delivered by the PPA for all ships to leave Port Hedland harbour by 9:30am on 22 March, when Roy Hill Shipping Manager David Kelly was notified at 10pm the night prior that a Roy Hill chartered ship had had a mechanical malfunction.

With language barriers making the cause of the failure unclear and time of the essence to prepare for the cyclone, PPA duty personnel and Roy Hill’s shipping team worked together to understand the root cause of the problem.

Overnight the ship’s Chief Engineer had made a temporary fix, although the PPA’s Deputy Harbour Master, Captain Jason Rebello, inspected the interim repair and found it to be unsatisfactory.

“The problem was that the O-ring in the main engine compressor starter had blown, and Jason was rightly concerned the patched job would simply blow again under pressure,” David said.

With the problem identified, the PPA reached out to other port users including Duty Shipping Officer at BHP, Indika Dehiwala. Indika quickly followed up with BHP’s chartered vessels and managed to source a spare O-ring to help repair Roy Hill’s chartered ship.

Thankfully, the O-ring was fitted in time ahead of the cyclone, with the Roy Hill chartered ship the last to sail from Port Hedland at 9.15am Friday, in compliance with the PPA’s cyclone evacuation orders.

Reflecting on the event David said everyone involved remained calm and positive that a solution would be found.

“It was important that the repairs were made, the main engine tested, and departure set before the official closure,” David said.

“To have a fully laden vessel immobilised along a berth anywhere in the port during a category four cyclone was not an option.  Thanks to BHP, our fully laden ship was repaired and able to safely leave the harbour before Cyclone Veronica hit the coast” David said.

The PPA has clear guidelines in place with actions to be taken leading up to a pre-cyclone port closure.

Under the direction of the PPA all the port users are to make their resources available to assist in any situation to keep the port safe to vessel traffic.

“Safety is the number one priority for all users and there is never a question on whether involvement is required to remedy a situation where safety is threatened,” David said.

David credited Harbour Master Captain Myron Fernandes, Deputy Harbour Master Captain Jason Rebelo, Deputy Harbour Master Captain Savio Fernandes, BHP Duty Shipping officer Indika Dehiwala,  Roy Hill Manager Port Operations, Gary Talbot and Roy Hill’s port team for their prompt action.

“It’s amazing what can be achieved with a $30 O-ring and a commitment to collaborate” David said.