Freighter Refloated 3 Weeks After Being Beached Off Australian Coast

A 40,000-ton coal freighter that was beached in a storm three weeks ago near a major Australian port was refloated Monday and towed out to sea, authorities said.

The Pasha Bulker, which had become a major tourist attraction in the coal port city of Newcastle since it ran aground on a sandbar at the city's Nobby's Beach on June 8, was pulled free Monday evening by three tug boats.

There was no significant oil spill or other immediate threats to the environment, officials said.

"It's just great to see this ship moving out to sea peacefully, quietly and most importantly we hope without leaving any oil behind," Joe Tripodi, the ports minister for New South Wales state, told reporters.

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Earlier Monday, environmental cleanup crews had been called in after oil was reported leaking from the ship's propeller shaft, causing a light slick that did not reach shore.

The Panama-registered Pasha Bulker had no cargo when it ran aground near Newcastle, about 90 miles north of Sydney, but was carrying more than 227,000 gallons of fuel and oil, prompting fears of an ecological disaster.

Three salvage tugs managed to turn the ship around late Sunday so that its bow pointed out to sea. Resuming the work at high tide Monday night, the tugs gingerly pulled the freighter free.

Tripodi said the ship would spend Monday night anchored nearby, and that divers would inspect the hull on Tuesday.

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