Ship part

Storms leave 21 people stranded on freighter off Sydney

An operation is underway to tow a cargo ship that was drifting over rocks in the wild seas near Sydney to deeper water.

Tugboats are expected to tow the MV Portland Bay to deeper water for two to three hours this afternoon, with the crew expected to remain on board.

The Port Authority said the ship’s captain had asked to keep all 21 crew on board as he was confident the engine failure could be repaired once the vessel was further offshore.

John Finch, Port Authority’s chief operating officer, said the operation involved three tugs coordinating a towing operation to move the vessel into deeper, safe waters offshore.

“The priority is to get this vessel and its crew to safer waters and away from land and the risk of grounding,” he said.

“All tugs have now arrived and connected to the vessel, so the operation has begun to weigh anchor and move this vessel safely out to sea in a slow and controlled manner.

Twenty-one crew members are stranded on the ship.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

“The conditions make the towing operation quite difficult. In an eight meter swell the vessel will rise, sink and roll. This will put a lot of strain on the equipment and the towing lines.”

The bulk carrier lost power and began to drift towards the cliffs at Royal National Park, south of Sydney, shortly after leaving Wollongong at around 7.30am.

A crew airlift plan has been scrapped as too dangerous at the moment, he said.

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Freighter remains stuck, crew suspects main engine problem

Earlier, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said emergency services were on their way to the cargo ship to try to airlift eight non-essential crew members to safety.

“It’s obviously a very precarious position and our thoughts are with those on board,” he said.

The ship is battered by heavy rain and strong winds, part of a deluge affecting a 500km stretch of coast from Newcastle to Bateman’s Bay in the south of the state.

meteorological office [BOM] Spokesman Jonathan How said those in Sydney were currently experiencing “a little respite from the rain”, but a gale warning and severe weather warning remained in place.

A map with a line indicating the path of a ship
A map showing the path of Portland Bay off the NSW coast.(Provided: MarineTraffic)

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