The Sygna was on its maiden voyage, waiting for a load of 50,000 tonnes of coal destined for Europe at the time of the accident. It was anchored off Newcastle when the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe storm warning and directive for ships to move out to sea. Seven of the ten ships anchored off Newcastle did so, however the Sygna was not one of them.
Early the following morning, with winds gusting at , the captain issued orders to set sail. Unfortunately, even with its engines at full-ahead the Sygna was unable to make any headway and the storm turned it parallel to the beach. It is reported that within 30 minutes it had run aground on Stockton Beach.
With heavy seas pounding the stricken ship, its captain radioed a Mayday and gave the order to abandon ship. An Iroquois helicopter from RAAF Williamtown’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Squadron flown by Flt Lt Gary McFarlane, attended the scene and slowly rescued the 31 trapped sailors from the ship in near cyclone conditions. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the incident. Gary McFarlane was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC), with other members of his crew receiving commendations for their heroic efforts during the rescue.
The Sygna lost approximately 700 tonnes of oil during the accident. This oil was mostly dispersed by the heavy seas, and as such no cleanup or recovery action was undertaken.
After the storm had subsided the salvage operation commenced. The ship was swung around, which caused the heavier stern section to sink into deeper water. This caused the ship to break its back.
On 4 September a salvage team led by Japanese millionaire Kitoku Yamada refloated the ship after repairing several holes in the hull and then pumping out thousands of tonnes of water. The stern section was refloated first, followed by the bow, which had been resting deep in the sand. The bow remained afloat but unfortunately for the salvagers the stern again went aground about out from the beach and gradually settled in the sand as salvage crews stripped it of all items of value.
In November 1974 another salvage attempt was made of the stern of the Sygna. This caused a very heavy oil spillage, which spread along a stretch of Stockton Beach. Bulldozers attempted to bury the oil in the sand above the high water mark. After lying in Salamander Bay in Port Stephens for almost two years the bow section was towed away and broken up in Taiwan.
The stern still lies on Stockton beach and since the shipwreck it has slowly been decaying from the harsh elements in its environment, however, it remains as an icon and landmark for the local area. According to the Newcastle port authority, the Sygna is the last of 59 ships which have been lost on Newcastle shores, although it was first feared that the MV Pasha Bulker would join it as a new Newcastle icon after it ran aground on Nobby's Beach (south of the Sygna wreck) on 8 June 2007. The Pasha Bulker was successfully re-floated on 2 July 2007 leaving the Sygna with its title.