News

Man told 'pay up or sink boat'

Former navy seaman (Barnacle) Bill Sizmur is fighting to save the ex attack class vessel HMAS Aware.
Former navy seaman (Barnacle) Bill Sizmur is fighting to save the ex attack class vessel HMAS Aware. Max Fleet/News Mail

A DECORATED former Navy officer is locked in battle with authorities over the insurance of his rare but rusting ship — which could cause a $500,000 clean-up bill if it leaks its store of fuel.

William George Sizmur was fined $10,000 in Bundaberg Magistrates Court for failing to insure the Navy attack class ship he served on in the 1970s.

But outside court, gripping onto an album filled with photos of the ship Aware in her hey-day, Sizmur told the NewsMail he could not bear to let her go.

The Aware is floating in the Burnett River, rust eating away at parts of the vessel that patrolled the ocean for 25 years.

The maximum fine for failing to insure the boat is $85,000.

Maritime Safety Queensland prosecutor Mandy Nixon told the court “a few thousand litres” of fuel was sitting in the ship and, if there was a spill or if it sank, it could cost taxpayers a minimum of $500,000 in cleaning fees.

The prosecutor said 57-year-old Sizmur, having served on the ship for three years between 1974-76, would have “been aware” of its maintenance costs.

Ms Nixon said the steel hull measured 5mm in width and was rusting — a claim Sizmur rejected.

“It’s the best steel BHP could roll. It’s a high tensile steel. (The prosecution) made a big deal about saying it was a 5mm hull — it still would be 5mm,” he said.

Sizmur said the “horrible” rusting back section was added to the ship in Melbourne after it was decommissioned.

The decorated seaman, who two weeks ago received a commendation from the Navy for his actions in a fire on another ship in 1979, brought the 32.6m steel ship up from Sydney in 2006 and claimed he took over registration of the ship after the investors pulled out.

Sizmur, who represented himself in court, told Magistrate John Smith he was having trouble “slipping”, or dry-docking, the ship because the pulley at Burnett Heads could not cope with the tonnage of the vessel.

He told the NewsMail if he could not get the ship out of the water, he would not be able to get it inspected for insurance.

Ms Nixon said in court the maritime authority had offered the former seaman options to get rid of the boat, including giving it to an organisation looking for a new vessel to sink on the artificial Cochrane Reef, off the Bundaberg coast.

But Sizmur said he could not bear the thought of the ship at the bottom of the sea.

“It would be a sad fate for a dying breed. The only other one is in the maritime museum in Sydney,” he said.



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