Iron Baron, 10 July 1995

On Monday 10 July 1995, the Iron Baron chartered bulk carrier grounded on Hebe Reef at the approach to the Tamar River, northern Tasmania at 7.30 pm EST.

The Iron Baron was a 37,557 dwt BHP chartered bulk carrier built in 1985. It had departed from Port Kembla in NSW on Saturday 8 July 1995, with a 24,000 tonne cargo of manganese ore that had been loaded at Groote Island, bound for the BHP-owned TEMCO facility at Bell Bay about 12 km inside the Tamar River estuary and within the port of Launceston.

Bulk carrier Iron Baron

Photo: AMSA

Bunker fuel oil began escaping shortly after grounding, later estimated at around 300 tonnes. The prevailing weather conditions at the time were north-westerly winds of 20-25 knots with two-metre seas. The ship's crew were safely evacuated and National Plan response arrangements initiated.

Weather conditions deteriorated, and due to the prevailing tidal conditions, oil impacted shorelines in the vicinity of Low Head. This caused a significant impact on wildlife, particularly little penguins. Cleaning up the affected shorelines began while work continued to refloat the Iron Baron.

A large wildlife collection, treatment and rehabilitation program was established at the pilot station complex at Low Head, north of George Town.

The ship was refloated on Sunday 16 July 1995, and moved to an anchorage approximately two miles offshore. Further oil escaped from under the ship following the refloating, some of which was successfully collected at sea while some impacted Bakers Beach and the Rubicon River estuary in the vicinity of Port Sorell.

The Port of Launceston Authority imposed a number port safety and environmental protection conditions before the vessel could enter port.

Several Bass Strait near shore islands were impacted at some locations. These islands were also the scene of a concentrated wildlife collection effort.


Underwater inspections and onboard assessments confirmed major structural damage. With the ship's condition deteriorating and adverse weather predicted BHP, as the shipowner, decided to dump the vessel. The Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency approved a disposal site some 53 miles east of Flinders Island.

After towing to the dumping area, the Iron Baron sank around 7.30 pm on Sunday 30 July 1995.

Related information

Read about Australia's National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies.

Last updated: 9 November 2020