Ship boat

Ship in distress sitting off Port Botany

A cargo ship off the NSW coast which lost power in torrential rain is anchored south of Port Botany. -AAP Picture

A cargo ship which lost power off the NSW coast in rough seas is anchored south of Port Botany after a lengthy operation involving three tugs.

Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet said the 170m bulk carrier was now stable and thanked the crew who worked through the night to secure the vessel “in incredibly dangerous conditions” including torrential rain and 11m swells .

The carrier lost power after leaving Port Kembla on Monday morning, raising fears it could crash into the cliffs in wild weather.

“I am very grateful to the crews of these tugboats for the heroic work they accomplished overnight,” the prime minister told reporters on Tuesday.

The job was far from done and the torrential weather meant the situation could change quickly, he said.

NSW Port Authority CEO Philip Holliday said earlier the captain and crew of the Portland Bay had endured a very difficult 24 hours but said “the situation is under control”.

“The ship is firmly seated…about a mile south of Port Botany, and we are in a better position than yesterday.”

The Hong Kong-registered carrier had anchored about a nautical mile off Garie Beach – between Sydney and Wollongong – after losing power around 7.30am on Monday.

The plan was to tow the vessel into deeper water around 20km from shore for repairs in an operation involving the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Port Authority.

The operation was assisted by the crews of the tugs SL Diamantina, Bullara and a third vessel before the carrier was moved to Port Botany overnight.

“Both the crew aboard the vessel and the crews aboard the tugs did an outstanding job,” Capt Holliday told the Nine Network.

“There is still a bit of a way to go but we are in a good position at the moment.”

Capt Holliday said the rescue mission was difficult.

“Securing a large tow line to a vessel that has no current at sea is a difficult situation,” he said.

“When you add the atrocious weather conditions, high seas and strong winds, it makes things extremely difficult.”

But while the tugs were able to bring the vessel further out to sea, there was an incident with the line.

“Unfortunately the line parted and that meant we had to take the fallback position and 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.

Another tug is nearby and a third will arrive around noon.

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

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

“We are not off the hook. There’s still a lot to do, but we’re as happy as it gets,” said Capt Holliday.