Portland Bay boat rescue near Royal National Park a success

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“As of this writing, everything is looking positive for the surgery,” Finch said. “It has been a successful operation so far thanks to the team and tug crews… Safety is paramount here, protecting the tug crews and crew on the ship.”

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The NSW Port Authority said the ship would be towed as far as 12nm from shore, where the crew would attempt overnight repairs. She hoped to hit the 12 nautical mile line around 10 p.m.

The turbofan in Portland Bay’s main engine exploded, causing the emergency, but the ship’s engineers had spares on board and would attempt repairs at sea, Mr Finch said.

If not, there was an option to tow the ship into port in the morning for more sophisticated repairs.

It’s unclear why the engine failed, but Dr. Reza Emad, a ship safety expert at the University of Tasmania, said such an event was very unusual.

“It’s very rare, but crews train for it, there’s standardized training around the world that they have to go through,” he said.

A map showing the drift of the stricken cargo ship Portland Bay off the NSW south coast on Monday.

Bureau of Meteorology data and the ship’s Global Positioning System paint a picture of violent weather, with enormous waves, heavy rain and winds reaching 42 knots when the engine cut out. The ship’s tracker then indicated the ship’s course as it steered sharply toward the rocky coast between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.

An attempt to rescue the crew via helicopter was previously aborted due to wild conditions, said Shane Daw, a manager with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter team.

“The bow was bucking up and down like a bucking horse, a wild horse,” Daw said. “The crew tried to come down, but the ship itself was bobbing 10 to 15 feet up and down in the water because it was powerless, drifting and the swell was quite big.

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“There were also a number of cranes and structures on the deck and there was a risk of them snagging on a winch line, which created a bigger problem.”

dr Emad said fuel cargo aboard the damaged vessel was a major concern, but it sounded like the risk had been well managed so far.

“It had just left port and would normally be carrying a full load of fuel,” said Dr. Emad. “It’s a risk that has to be managed very, very carefully in this environment. But it sounds like they did it.”

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