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MV Portland Bay docked

The three day operation was a success, with some of the journey captured on video.  The following has been produced from video captured at multiple locations by various agencies/people. Read the full story below.

Updates provided by Port Authority of NSW

Port Authority Praises Responders for Vessel Response – 6 July – 6.00 pm

Port Authority of NSW CEO Captain Philip Holliday praised all agencies involved in the successful multiagency response that brought the MV Portland Bay safely into Port Botany this afternoon after its engines failed.

“From the moment Port Authority was appointed incident controller at 10.20am on Monday, 4 July, protecting people and the environment was at the heart of this operation and every decision,” Captain Holliday said.

“I would like to acknowledge the heroic efforts of the towage crews who worked day and night to keep all aboard MV Portland Bay safe. “The professionalism and skill of the mariners involved were on display for the world to see in truly atrocious conditions. Thank you for your tireless efforts over the past three days.

“Behind the scenes, a multifaceted group of professionals worked tirelessly to make this operation a success – too many to call out by name but know it was the cumulative impact of everyone’s efforts together that made the difference.

“Keeping the vessel stable and away from the coastline, then ultimately, bringing the vessel in for further repairs was a complex task in very challenging conditions.

“The Master of the MV Portland Bay’s actions contributed to the success of keeping the vessel and his crew safe as part of the difficult operation.”

Captain Holliday said he was incredibly proud of staff and called out the performance and commitment of the Incident Management Team. He also thanked all agencies involved including the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), Engage Towage, Svitzer Australia, Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters and Surf Lifesaving NSW, NSW Ports and the port community at Port Botany, Transport for NSW, NSW Police, Marine Area Command, NSW Environment Protection Authority, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment and Heritage, State Emergency Operations Centre, the Regional Emergency Management Office and, of course, the team at Port Authority of NSW. The crew are reported to be well and relieved to have reached the safety of the port where they will conduct further repairs.

AMSA has now assumed responsibility for the vessel’s safety and repairs.


The Incident Management Team, led by Port Authority of NSW, has met this morning and a decision has been made that Port Authority Marine Pilots will attempt to board the MV Portland Bay this morning to meet with crew and assess conditions as the first step in a detailed plan to bring the vessel safely into berth.

A window of favourable ocean and weather conditions has opened and the multi-agency Incident Control Team has assessed this first step can commence, which is focused on assessing that all conditions, the vessel and technical requirements are suitable for further action to commence.

Maintaining the safety of the crew, the front-line responders, our marine pilots, cutter crews, tug operators and the marine environment remain central to all decisions, at every step of this difficult operation.

Highly trained marine pilots are boarding by ladder from a cutter vessel in an environment that is not normal procedure.

This is a critical first step in assessing if further steps can be undertaken today or it is more prudent to await further improvement in the weather later in the week.

Port Authority will also transfer a marine engineer and salvage expert onboard to support the crew in assessing the engine issues and current capability, whilst a salvage expert will also board to help ensure the towage equipment is connected to the vessel as planned.

The plan remains to bring the vessel alongside a suitable berth in Port Botany as a final step once when is it safe to do so. This will take several hours and it remains dependent upon the weather conditions which could delay progress beyond today.


The MV Portland Bay remained safe and stable overnight at 1.2NM off Port Botany near Cronulla.

Both anchors remain down and secure.

Weather conditions have improved and commercial shipping will recommence this morning in Port Botany, Port Kembla and Sydney.

The multi-agency Incident Management Team will meet later this morning to consider all options and if conditions are right to begin the multi-staged planned movement of the vessel.

This will be a slow and considered process with many factors and steps.

Safety of all involved remains paramount and we understand the crew and on-water responders have had a better night.

Long Days Ahead for Portland Bay Operation – 5 July – 1.00 pm

The multiagency response team being led by Port Authority of NSW is preparing for slow and steady progress in challenging conditions as weather continues to hamper the response to move the MV Portland Bay after she lost power south of Sydney.

Port Authority CEO Captain Philip Holliday said the vessel remains at anchor with both anchors down in a position 1.2 nautical miles off Botany Bay near Cronulla Beach.

“The crew is taking every opportunity while in this situation to undertake repairs to their engines,” said Captain Philip Holliday.

“Two tugs remain on site with the vessel today and I’m pleased that in the currently stable environment all crew have had the opportunity to refresh and get some rest after working in these extremely difficult and hazardous conditions throughout yesterday and overnight.

“The third Emergency Tow Vessel (ETV), Glenrock has also arrived onsite after punching through southerly headwinds and over 10metre seas during the passage from Newcastle.

“The specialized vessel with additional deep sea response capability, Glenrock, will be key in the next phase when moving the Portland Bay to safety.

“The priority of this operation remains the safety of all involved and protecting the NSW coastline.

All agencies involved are being extremely vigilant in planning every step we take to this end.

“The plan today is to keep the vessel stable in the current location with tugs ready and available so we can affect a tow if needed, but otherwise keep her where she is as we await an improved weather window to bring her into Port Botany.”

MV Portland Bay update – 5 July 6.00 am

The operation to tow the vessel Portland Bay into deeper water last night stalled late in the evening when tow lines broke in the extreme weather and ocean conditions.

MV Portland Bay 05 July 22 @ 9.10am

Port Authority of NSW CEO Captain Philip Holliday said. “As a result, the ship was moved northwards towards a more sheltered location where she is now sitting safely approximately 1.2 nautical miles off Port Botany with both anchors deployed and secured. One tug remains connected and whilst another remains close by.

With 11 metre swells experienced last night, an operational decision was made to suspend further attempts to tow the ship out to sea.

The crew of the MV Portland Bay has been unable to make the repairs required on board and the incident team’s preference at this time is to bring the ship into Port Botany when the weather abates so repairs can be undertaken in the safety of a berth and port environment.

Based on current weather forecasts, it is expected that the ship will remain off shore until at least Wednesday.

An additional tug with heavy duty emergency equipment is travelling from Newcastle and is expected to arrive at Port Botany in the early afternoon today to provide further assistance.
The ship is maintaining its position and the crew are safe, their safety and the safety of our frontline responders remains the highest priority.

The ongoing severe weather conditions makes moving the MV Portland Bay extremely hazardous so the vessel is being supported in position until the weather eases.”

Report from WESTPAC Rescue – 04 July

#SAFETYMISSION early this morning Australian Maritime Safety Authority – AMSA advised of a cargo/bulk carrier in distress off Wattamolla coastline. The vessel was soon located and assessment of the situation carried out.

A couple of test winches were performed, however with the high winds, upright structures on the ship and large seas making the vessel buck, creating a high risk environment.
Working with the Toll Ambulance Rescue they also assessed the situation and authorities were advised of the situation.

Tug boats were bought in and the helicopters requested to cease winch operations while further assessments were undertaken.

The crews went to standby, ready to be deployed if needed. Liaison undertaken with Surf Life Saving NSW and NSW Police Force along with AMSA for any further action

Operation progresses to safe waters – 4 July – 6.00 pm

The operation underway to tow the vessel, MV Portland Bay, to safe waters is progressing well with the vessel now around 2.5 nautical miles away from the shoreline.

Incident Controller, Chief Operating Officer at Port Authority of NSW Captain John Finch said the operation continues to be challenging but progress is being made safely and surely. “Our priorities remain twofold – getting this vessel and its crew into safer waters and away from land and the potential of grounding, while keeping all responders safe,” Captain Finch said.

“We are not out of the woods, but we are heading in the right direction.

“All response crews will continue this operation for several hours well into the night despite the ocean conditions which are atrocious.

“Our thoughts are with them and the crew as they continue the slow and delicate operation to remove this vessel to deep water and well away from the State’s coastline.

“I can confirm the crew are all safe and in good spirits at this stage.

“Three tugs are in attendance, the critical step of raising the anchors was achieved and they are new secured and they are now traveling at 1.5 knots. This will put them about 12 nautical miles off the coast by before midnight.

“Two tugs will remain in place until the main engines are repaired and operational.

“I reiterate my acknowledgement of the enormous team effort, particularly the crew of the Engage tug SL Diamantina, in difficult conditions to undertake this operation, giving us the best possible chance of getting this vessel away.”

Operation commences to tow drifting cargo ship to safe waters – 4 July – 4.11 pm

An operation is underway to tow a vessel, MV Portland Bay, that was drifting with no power towards the shoreline south of Sydney.

Port Authority of NSW was appointed incident controller at 10.20am today with an Incident Control Team established at Port Botany to oversee the multiagency response.

Incident Controller, Chief Operating Officer at Port Authority of NSW Captain John Finch said the operation involved three tugs coordinating a towing operation to move the vessel into safe deeper waters out to sea.

“The priority is getting this vessel and its crew into safer waters and away from land and the potential of grounding,” Captain Finch said. “We have eight metre swells and 30 knot winds, so the conditions are really difficult for the teams working on the water to move this vessel out,” Mr Finch said.
“All tugs have now arrived and connected to the ship so the operation has commenced to raise its anchors and move this ship safely out to sea in a slow and controlled manner.

“The conditions make the towage operation quite difficult. In eight metre swell the vessel is going to be rising and falling and rolling. That’s going to put a lot of stress on the equipment and the tug lines.

“Central to this operation is the safety of the ship’s crew and the frontline responders and our thoughts are with those onboard and out on the water.

“The aim at this point is to get the vessel out well off the coast tonight before the weather deteriorates further.

“The next few hours are critical. I want to thank the incredible response already from so many agencies to undertake an operation of this magnitude, giving us the best possible chance of success.”

A rescue operation is continuing in waters off the Royal National Park –  4th July – 12:10 pm

A rescue operation is continuing in waters off the Royal National Park in Sydney’s South where a cargo ship lost power earlier this morning. The ship is double anchored around 1km off the coast.

A tugboat has been sent to help point the bow of the boat out to sea, and another is on the way which will be able to pull it further from the coastline.

An initial plan was to have the ship’s 21 crew airlifted off, but conditions have rendered that rescue unsafe.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said its helping the NSW Port Authority with the incident.

“The 170 m vessel, the Portland Bay, lost main engine power this morning and is drifting off Garie Beach. The ship has dropped anchor and is currently holding position,” she said.

“AMSA has tasked the Essendon Challenger jet to attend the scene which will provide a communication link and location data.

NSW Water Police tugs from Port Botany, the Volunteer Marine Rescue service, the Australian Navy and emergency services are also involved.

Video by; Lifesaver 21, Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters