Cargo ship stranded off Sydney, forced to remain at anchor by atrocious conditions | Australia’s weather

The stricken cargo ship MV Portland Bay will remain immobilized until at least Wednesday morning as severe conditions at sea continue to delay efforts to tow it to deeper waters.

Attempts to tow the 170-meter-long ship into deeper waters were suspended Monday night after lines used to tow the ship snapped in the extreme weather.

The Port of NSW Authority warned the complex rescue operation could take days as multi-authority response team prepared for “slow and steady progress” after the ship lost power south of sydney.

The ship remained anchored in a sheltered, safe position near Cronulla Beach on Tuesday evening. Port Authority chief executive Philip Holliday said it would remain there overnight with two tugs while the crew waited for better conditions.

Cargo ship stranded off Sydney coast as wild weather hits NSW – video

The 21 crew members on board were safe.

“The ship has been in the same position, about a mile south of Port Botany, since the early hours of the morning,” he told Guardian Australia.

“We’ll wait until breakfast tomorrow, get a couple of pilots on board, some extra crew support and assuming the weather is favourable, we’ll get the ship to Port Botany in the early afternoon and hopefully get the repairs going.

“We will remain seated there until either we have a good window to get them in safely or something happens which means we have to move. We hope it is the former and the weather improves as predicted.”

An additional larger tug remained available to tow the ship at sea if conditions continued to deteriorate.

“It’s been a long few days, luckily the ship is in a safe position while we wait for a weather window,” Holliday said.

“The crew had a chance to rest and look forward to reflecting on the whole adventure in a good place.

“They have taken some very professional and impressive action… Side by side with the tug crews who have worked tirelessly to keep us in a good position.”

Holliday said tugboat crews tried to get some rest Tuesday but it wasn’t “the easiest thing in the world” in dangerous conditions.

“They’re really being thrown around, but they’ve certainly played their part in keeping the situation under control,” he said.

“Lessons will be learned… maritime issues like these take time, you always wish they would end quickly and they never do – it’s all about taking the right actions at the right time and not panicking.

“The work of all the crew members involved was outstanding under really horrific conditions.”

The third emergency tow vessel, Glenrock, arrived on site Tuesday afternoon after overcoming strong southerly headwinds and a sea level of more than 10 meters during its crossing from Newcastle.

Holliday said Glenrock will be “key” in the next phase when Portland Bay is eventually secured.

The Portland Bay, which is transporting almost 1,000 tons of heating oil, has been at anchor since Tuesday morning, accompanied by the tugboat SL Martinique.

As of Monday night, it was hoped the ship could move about 12 nautical miles offshore, but ferocious weather snapped the tow lines, making moving the ship dangerous for rescue crews.

The Portland Bay had unloaded a cargo of cement at Port Kembla and put to sea again early Monday morning. But the turbofan in the ship’s main engine exploded just after 7 a.m., battering it in seas of up to 8 meters and 42-knot winds. The ship’s engineers initially planned to repair it at sea, but conditions made this impossible.

Deputy Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia Sydney Branch, Paul Garrett, said crews on board the tugs did an exceptional job in treacherous conditions.

“It’s like going out to sea in a washing machine,” he said. “I spoke to the guys: they described the seas as mountainous and said they were thrown around a bit.

“They haven’t slept much and it’s uncomfortable work, but that’s part of the job. You get the call, you’re going to sea.”

He said crews would have averted a potentially “catastrophic” accident if the Portland Bay ran aground with the potential for 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil to be spilled onto the coast of Royal National Park.

“If it had hit the rocks and shattered, it would have been an environmental disaster.” Garrett said the crew of 21 aboard the Hong Kong-registered Portland Bay are in reasonable health despite a rough night at sea. “I understand that they are fine.”

Wild weather in New South Wales continued overnight on Monday, with heavy rain and high winds lashing the state.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the east coast low was expected to weaken but up to 100mm of rain would still fall over the next 24 hours, stretching from Newcastle to south Sydney.

– Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

Cargo ship stranded off Sydney, forced to remain at anchor by atrocious conditions | Australia’s weather

Source link Cargo ship stranded off Sydney, forced to remain at anchor by atrocious conditions | Australia’s weather

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