From the Newsroom

Green Point trawler disaster avoidable, say locals

Rodney Stevens


The Lower Clarence community rallied last week to protect our pristine local beaches after news that a 13-metre wooden trawler had run aground and broken up at Angourie’s Green Point beach, scattering debris and diesel along the shoreline, leaving a disaster locals say was avoidable.

This was the second vessel to run aground at Angourie in nine months after the July 8, 2023, stranding of the 15-metre steel ketch Chinook on rocks near Spooky Beach.

Witnesses reported seeing the boat’s occupants abandon the vessel as they attempted to cross the Clarence River bar just before lunchtime on Monday, March 18, and NSW Maritime said they were rescued by Iluka Yamba Marine Rescue.

Angourie resident Kim Wood said she first spotted the stricken trawler close to Spooky Beach headland around 1pm on Monday, so she called the Yamba Port Authorities, Marine Rescue NSW, NSW Water Police and NSW Maritime, urging them to salvage the boat.

“I saw a man in a tinny go out to the trawler and he actually moved it away from the rocks with his boat,” she said.

“Then when he came into the beach a local man went out with him in the tinny to the trawler, which was just drifting freely, and they boarded the vessel and managed to anchor it.

“They got the engine started and left it running to burn off some diesel, but the gearbox was broken so the trawler couldn’t be moved under its own power.

“I kept on ringing them to say, ‘hey are you guys doing anything’, it’s calm now, if I had a boat, I could tow it in.”

If someone was still on board the trawler, Kim Wood said she was told a salvage mission would have been launched on Monday, and she considered swimming out to the vessel to prevent what unfolded.

By the time a NSW Water Police boat which left Coffs Harbour at 3.30pm arrived on the scene about 6pm, Kim Wood said winds had strengthened, conditions had deteriorated, and the trawler had dragged the anchor and was close to rocks.

After the trawler hit rocks at the northern end of Green Point beach on Monday night, Ms Wood said locals collected debris from the beach and returned on Tuesday to be confronted with a massive mess, and part of the trawlers hull and engine in the ocean.

“There was just so much stuff, oil bottles, all different marine fluids, but the thing that was upsetting was that it could have been stopped, they had hours to drag it back in,” she said.

Ms Wood said Iluka based Northern Rivers Marine Services, who were on the beach on Tuesday morning waiting to get approval to start the clean-up had been magnificent, and they were still there on Friday removing debris.

“This incident could have been avoided, authorities could have come and towed the boat back to the marina, they had more than five hours after I first started ringing,” she said.

“NSW Maritime knew after the occupants of the trawler were rescued that there was an unmanned boat drifting out to sea.”

Concerned locals met last weekend to discuss streamlining the process so such a disaster doesn’t happen again.

“We just want people to be able to communicate and facilitate a rescue service and a clean-up service,” Kim said.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said locals should be careful of any sharp objects that may be buried in the sand following the incident.

“On Monday 18 March, a 13-metre timber trawler washed onto Green Point beach, Angourie following a mechanical failure, which forced the owners to abandon the vessel for their own safety,” the spokesperson said. 

“Transport for NSW worked with Marine Area Command and Marine Rescue NSW who quickly attended the vessel, and the situation was deemed too unsafe to undertake a tow.  

“We have engaged a contractor to remove all debris from the beach. 

“Transport for NSW Maritime has made contact with the owner of the vessel and are now leading an investigation to ascertain how the incident occurred. 

 “The investigation will determine if fines or penalties are to be issued, however the cost of the salvage and cleanup will be recovered from the vessel owners.”