A rescue operation to tow a bulk carrier stranded off the Royal national park, toward the south of Sydney, to safety before further poor weather takes over has been proceeding well so far. The efforts are expected to continue into Monday night.
The New South Wales Port Authority mentioned that while not yet “out of the woods”, the operation to save the Portland Bay was proceeding in the right direction. As of Monday, 6 pm, the vessel was 2.5 nm from the shore in volatile conditions.
By mid-afternoon, three tugs had been moving the carrier to safer waters, as the crucial step of raising the anchors of the vessel was realized. The tugs had been traveling at about 1.5 knots, placing the ship on track to be at a safer 12nm away from the coast by midnight.
John Finch, the COO of the port authority, mentioned that the priorities are currently twofold – getting the vessel and crew into safer waters, away from land, and removing the chances of it grounding, while keeping the responders safe.
Finch added that the response crews would continue the operation for over several hours despite “atrocious” conditions.
The conditions make the towage operations quite difficult. In an eight-meter swell, the bulk carrier is going to be rising, falling, and rolling. That will put severe stress on the equipment and tug lines.
The vessel lost power and started drifting toward the cliffs at the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, not long after it had departed Wollongong at around 7:30 am.
Finch said that preliminary advice from the crew members of the vessel was that the turbo engine blower had malfunctioned. It would require a comparatively straightforward repair of about four to six hours.
An earlier plan to airlift crew members has been abandoned as it was too dangerous.
Dominic Perrottet, the earlier NSW Premier, mentioned that emergency services had started off to try and airlift eight non-essential crew members to safety.
It is a precarious position and the relevant authorities’ thoughts are with those who are onboard.
Jonathan How, a Bureau of Meteorology [BOM] spokesman mentioned that those across Sydney are right now experiencing some reprieve in the rain, but gale and severe weather warnings remain current.
Dr. Reza Emad, a marine safety expert associated with the Australian Maritime College of the University of Tasmania, said the vessel was a so-called “handysize” carrier. It is owned by a Hong Kong-based maritime logistics major named Pacific Basin. It would most likely have on board nearly 1,000 tonnes of fuel.
He added that a similar cargo vessel had caused an ecological disaster after it had run aground in Sri Lanka.
The amount of fuel it had was almost 1,000 tonnes, and enough to result in massive pollution of the coast. It was reportedly the most dangerous sea pollution that they’d experienced in their history.
The Port Authority has asked the ship’s master to keep 21 crew members on board as he’s confident that the engine failure can be fixed once the vessel is out to the sea.
References: ABC News, Daily Mail Online, DCN