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Stricken ship 'under control' after battle to avoid running aground

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A bulk carrier that lost power off the NSW coast in heavy seas is anchored south of Port Botany after a long operation involving three tug boats.

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Port Authority of NSW CEO Philip Holliday said the captain and crew of the Portland Bay had been through a very challenging 24 hours.

“But the situation is under control,” Captain Holliday said on Tuesday.

“The vessel is securely sitting … just a mile or so south of Port Botany, and we’re in a better position than we were yesterday.”

The 170-metre Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier had dropped anchor about one nautical mile off Garie Beach – between Sydney and Wollongong – after losing power about 7.30am on Monday.

There were fears it could crash into cliffs during wild weather sparked by fierce rain that has caused flooding in Greater Sydney and surrounding regions.

By Monday evening the plan was to tow the vessel into deeper water approximately 20km from the shore to be repaired in an operation involving the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Port Authority.

The operation was helped by crews on the tug boats SL Diamantina, Bullara and a third vessel before the carrier was shifted towards Port Botany overnight.

“Both the crew on board the ship and the crews on board the tug boats have done an outstanding job,” Capt Holliday told the Nine Network.

“There is still a little way to go but we’re in a good position at the moment.”

Capt Holliday said the rescue mission was a difficult one.

“Securing a large tow line to a ship that has no power out at sea is a challenging situation,” he said.

“When you throw in the atrocious weather conditions, the high seas and the strong winds, that makes it extremely difficult.”

But while the tugs were able to get the ship further off shore, there was a mishap with the line.

“Unfortunately, the line did part and that meant that we had to take the fallback position and so that’s why the ship is now at anchor just south of Port Botany,” he said.

The carrier is anchored in a sheltered position, secured by a line to a tug boat.

Another tug is close by and a third will arrive about noon.

In the meantime, the ship and tug boat crews are resting as they wait for the weather to ease.

If conditions improve the carrier will be taken into Port Botany for repairs.

“We’re not out of the woods. There is a bit to go, but we’re as pleased as we can be,” Capt Holliday said.

Australia’s transport safety watchdog has flagged it may investigate how the ship lost power.

In a statement on Monday, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said it was taking an “active interest” and was gathering information.

It is believed the problem involved bearings inside the main engine.

The ship is not carrying anything other than its own fuel and oil.

 

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