POLL, VIDEO: Long-serving floating dock sails to new home

AFTER weeks of preparation, the Forgacs floating dock is all but ready for its voyage from Carrington to the west coast of Africa via Singapore.

Forgacs operations manager Steve Morley said the dock’s floating crane, the Hercules, would be put on board today.

Tomorrow, tugs would tow the dock to the nearby Snakepit berth.

Late next week, probably on Friday, the dock would be towed past Nobbys on its way to Singapore, where it would be overhauled before being towed  to Africa.

Since arriving from Japan in 1978, the  Muloobinba – as the dock is registered and officially known – has played temporary home to a roll-call of naval and commercial vessels and provided work for thousands of people.

Newcastle Port Corporation chief executive Gary Webb said the departure of the floating dock reflected the changing nature of the port.

“The nature of maritime activity in the last 30 years has seen the move to increasingly larger vessels,’’ Mr Webb said.

‘‘As a result, the once-busy floating dock has increasingly found that it is too small to service many of the trading vessels calling in Australia.”

Two of the dock’s biggest contracts were the HMAS Manoora and Kanimbla, which spent three years in the port from 1996, after they were found to be in much worse shape than the federal government had believed when it bought them second-hand from the US Navy.

The dock was also the backdrop to some celebrated industrial stoushes, most notably a 1991 painters and dockers union picket of the HMAS Tobruk, the first naval ship that Forgacs had attracted to the dock.

Many of the dockers of that time have retired or died, but long-time dockmaster Mick Sweeney – who has held his job for 20years – will be there to the very end.

Forgacs chief executive Lindsay Stratton said the company had plenty of work at its various sites in NSW and Queensland. But a range of circumstances, including the strong Australian dollar and a glut of new ships, meant the floating dock had been unprofitable for some time. 

It had not had a customer since 2010 and cost a lot of  to keep in working order. The sale was revealed early last month in the Newcastle Herald.

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