The three members of a tugboat successfully saved the state from a massive disaster on Monday after a stricken cargo vessel loaded with hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil drifted powerlessly toward the cliffs of the Royal National Park.
The tiny tugboat dubbed Diamantina grappled to keep Portland Bay off the rocks for almost four hours, relinking with the bigger vessel when secure lines were torn off by the massive swells until the reinforcements came through in the shape of two additional tugboats.
Philip Holliday, the chief executive of the Port Authority of New South Wales said that on Sunday afternoon, The Portland Bay, owned by a Hong Kong-based firm, had reportedly left Port Kembla. It set sail for Melbourne but unfortunately lost its power.
She had departed from Port Kembla at about 13:10 on Sunday. The authorities were informed around daybreak on Monday morning. She headed toward the sea when the weather conditions were atrocious.
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That also provides the lead to the investigation: At what stage did she start facing difficulties, and what exactly took place between that time and the authorities being notified?
It had been drifting toward cliffs in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney before a tug boat managed to pull it further out to sea.
Mr. Holliday mentioned that the ship should ideally have sought help earlier and a detailed investigation into the incident would also be taking place.
While the vessel was being towed away from the cliffs, plans to pull the ship into a port had to be aborted yesterday as the cable linking Portland Bay and the tug snapped in the rough seas.
Mr. Holliday says that the original fault in the vessel resulted from an issue with the Turbo blower that cools the engine. However, the crew members had to keep using the engine on Monday when they were in rough seas. This ended up causing further damage to it.
The engine was repairable. The vessel remained in a stable position 1.2nm off the Port Botany coast.
Mr. Holliday added that the ship’s owner would also be footing the bill for the cost of rescue operations.
Initially, the New South Wales government hoped to winch some of the 21 crew members via a helicopter to safety, but that attempt had to be abandoned owing to the dire weather.
References: Brisbane Times, MSN, The Guardian