A stranded cargo ship has finally been towed to safety after a daring rescue attempt was hampered by dangerous conditions.
The Port Authority of NSW said the Portland Bay vessel was under tow by three Engage Marine tugboats after a ‘successful extraction’ of its two anchors.
The bulk carrier lost power about one kilometer off Garie Beach in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, leaving 21 crew members stranded in massive seas on Monday morning.
Incident controller John Finch said the vessel was in a ‘stable, anchored position’ during a press conference on Monday afternoon.
‘We’ve got two tugs in attendance, two anchors deployed, we’ve got a third that will be arriving in the next 15 or 20 minutes,’ he said.
A stranded cargo ship (pictured) has finally been towed to safety after heart-stopping rescue attempts were hampered by powerful surf
There was an initial plan this morning to evacuate the non-essential staff but once the vessel deployed its anchors and it was in a stable condition it was no longer drifting towards the rocks, the master asked to keep his crew on board.
‘At this point in time they’re confident they can make an engine repair once they get into safe, deep water.’
Earlier, a rescue helicopter and aircraft were deployed to evacuate eight non-essential crew from the ship, along with several tugboats sent from Port Botany.
The rescue operation is expected to continue into the evening as the east coast is pummeled with non-stop rain, powerful surf and strong winds.
The ship is expected to enter safer waters in two to three hours and will be repaired – with crew members suspecting that a main turbo engine blower has failed.
‘If that is the case and there are no further issues it should be a fairly straightforward repair, they’re saying four to six hours,’ Mr Finch said.
The rescue comes after experts estimated that the ship was carrying about 1000 tons of heavy fuel oil and would trigger an ‘ecological disaster’ if it were to run aground.
The Portland Bay cargo ship was spotted battling rough seas offshore from the Royal National Park
Footage from Surf Life Saving NSW showed a rescue helicopter circling the ship as it battled powerful waves off the Illawarra coast.
‘It’s a tricky situation, with tower cranes on the ship interfering with any winching attempts,’ Surf Life Saving tweeted on Monday afternoon.
There were fears the 169-meter bulk carrier was in danger of running aground one nautical mile offshore near Wattamolla due to the wild weather affecting the coastline, or drifting into the cliffs of the Royal National Park.
A second tug boat arrived on the scene around 2pm in a desperate effort to bring the vessel under control and push it further out to sea.
Rescue aircraft and other emergency services are monitoring the evolving situation with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority providing a communication link with the vessel via overhead aircraft.
There were grave fears the ship could drift into the cliffs of Royal National Park (pictured)
Two tugboats have arrived to push the stranded Portland Bay cargo ship further out to sea as rescue efforts were put on hold due to the severe weather.
‘There is another tugboat which is about two-and-a-half to three hours away which will have the capacity to pull it further away from the coast,’ Australian Defense Force Brigadier Robert Lording said.
There are 21 crew members on board and there was thought of airlifting some of those crew members of the vessel.
‘I have spoken to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority which has indicated that they believe it is unsafe to do that at this time and they have delayed that rescue mission.’
Authorities have assured the Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier – which is about 170 meters long and 27 meters wide – is double-anchored.
Authorities have assured the Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier (pictured) – which is about 170 meters long and 27 meters wide – is double-anchored
Authorities have sent two tugboats to steer the boat away from the coast after fearing it would hit the cliffs of the Royal National Park
‘My understanding is that the tugboat that is being sent has the capacity to tow it further to sea and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority will co-ordinate the resources needed to get it under way out of its own power,’ deputy police commissioner Peter Thurtell said .
A plan to airlift non-essential crew members off the boat with two helicopters has because of safety concerns caused by the treacherous conditions.
‘It is obviously a very precarious position and our thoughts are with those on board,’ NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters on Monday.
‘But the NSW government is continuing to work with Commonwealth agencies to ensure that the situation is rectified as quickly as possible in ensuring that all 21 crew on board are lifted to safety as quickly as possible.’