Seafarers gathered at Port Kembla on Wednesday afternoon to say goodbye to a "warhorse of this coast".
Since June last year, when fire ripped through it, the Iron Chieftain has become a fixture of the harbour.
That is until Wednesday afternoon, when it was towed out to sea by an oceangoing tug.
Acting southern NSW branch secretary Mick Cross said it was a sad day for the Iron Chieftain's crew and the region's seafarers.
"I'm seafarer myself and that's your place of work," Mr Cross said.
"Those who are employed on the same vessel long term, through the course of the year you nearly spend more time on board than what you do in your own home with your family.
"So it's not just a workplace, it's a home. That's how seamen fell when they're on these jobs so it will be an emotional day for them."
Mr Cross said the ship was one of the last Australian-crewed vessels working in Australian waters.
"This vessel was going to remain on the coast, there was trade for the Iron Chieftain," he said.
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"The Iron Chieftain has been a warhorse on this coast for more than 20 years now."
On Monday, June 18, the Iron Chieftain was docked alongside the BlueScope steelworks, unloading dolomite - an ingredient in steelmaking.
In the early hours, a fire started on a conveyor belt before spreading to a 12,000 cubic metre pile of dolomite.
It would take firefighters almost a week to fully extinguish the blaze and the damage would leave owner CSL Shipping with no other option than to retire the ship.
The original plan was to tow the ship to China to be broken up into scrap.
However, last year Chinese authorities banned the importation of vessels for shipbreaking.
That led CSL to look elsewhere, and the Iron Chieftain will now be taken to a ship recycling facility in Turkey.
A statement from CSL said it would be carried out in accordance with its policy, "which mandates that disposal must be carried out in a manner that does not pose any risks to human health, safety or the environment".
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