Bulker Loses its Rudder Disabling it off New Zealand 

bulker loses rudder
After reporting steering issues it was discovered the bulker lost its rudder (Joe Mabel photo - CC BY-SA 4.0)

Published Jul 31, 2023 12:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

Maritime officials in New Zealand are dealing with an unusual situation after a bulker departing port lost its rudder. They are working with the port and the owners to determine the plan of action for the vessel which has remained at anchor and is now detained by Maritime New Zealand until the safety of the vessel and its crew can be confirmed.

The Achilles Bulker is a 20-year-old ship operating regularly to New Zealand and in Asia with its management based in Taiwan. Registered in Panama, the vessel is 32,729 dwt and 580 feet in length.

The bulker arrived in New Zealand’s busy east coast port of Tauranga on the North Island in mid-July after a voyage from Hong Kong and Vietnam. It was in port to load a cargo of logs bound for China. 

Shortly after departing Tauranga Harbor on July 24, the vessel reported it was experiencing steering issues and it anchored near the harbor entrance. Tugs later moved it to a safer anchor so that an investigation could begin into the nature of the problem.

New Zealand’s regulator Maritime New Zealand reports that when divers were sent down to investigate, they were surprised to find the vessel was missing its rudder. During subsequent dives, they were able to locate the rudder. The rudder was recovered by divers last week and brought to shore.

An investigation reportedly is showing evidence of previous damage to the rudder. Investigators also said that the bottom pintle which secures the rudder in place was missing.

Today it was announced that an official detention order has been placed on the vessel which is currently anchored 3.5 nautical miles off one of the area’s popular beaches. Harbor officials also established an exclusion zone around the vessel to prevent curious boaters from approaching the bulker.

Maritime New Zealand said it is working with regional officials and the port along with the owners of the bulker to determine a plan of action. Due to the rudder failure, Maritime New Zealand highlights that the Achilles Bulker will need to be towed to a dry dock for repairs, at the owner’s expense. The current plan is to first tow the ship back into Tauranga to offload the cargo.

A further investigation into the circumstances contributing to the rudder failure is ongoing. The ship’s last Port State Inspection was in April in New Zealand with only minor issues. Its record does not show a history of detentions and failures.

Top photo of the Achilles Bulker in 2022 by Joe Mabel -- CC BY-SA 4.0 license