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Rescue Plan Underway to Tow Disabled Containership Back to Port

rescue of disabled containership
Shiling was towed to Tasman Bay while plan can be finalized for its salvage after breaking down for the fourth time in last than a year in New Zealand (photo from Skandi Emerald tug supplied by Maritime NZ)

Published May 15, 2023 2:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

Officials in New Zealand are working with the port of Wellington as well as the owners of a disabled containership to resolve a plan to bring the ship safely back to port to once again undergo repairs. The Shiling (66,5000 dwt) registered in Singapore was towed to a safer position at the head of Tasman Bay after having lost power in rough seas 22 nautical miles North-Northwest of Farewell Spit at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.

“While the decision around passage, anchoring locations, and towage are managed by the owners of the Shiling, Maritime New Zealand has oversight, and is liaising with CenterPort and Wellington Harbour Master to ensure the process is managed safely,” they said in their latest update on the situation which has been underway since May 11 when the ship blacked out, losing steering capabilities, in seas with waves up to 26 feet. The crew was preparing to abandon ship and authorities were positioning resources before the seas calmed and an ocean-going tug was able to secure the containership.

Officials in the port of Wellington thought they had resolved the problems with the Shiling last week when they cleared the containership to depart for Singapore where it was expected repairs would be completed. The ship had blacked out in Wellington Harbor in April drifting across a sandbar and nearly grounding. 

After the ship broke down last month, Maritime New Zealand and the Wellington Harbour Master had set a series of conditions before the vessel could depart, including trials and limits on the weather conditions for when the ship sailed. The New Zealand Herald is reporting that the Shiling requires repairs to her generators and main engine that cannot be completed in Wellington. 

The decision was made to complete temporary repairs to give the ship sufficient engine power to sail to Singapore. Another of the conditions for lifting the detention was a requirement that the ship’s class society, Lloyd’s Register, inspect the repairs. 

“Lloyd’s Register confirmed to Maritime NZ and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore that the repairs completed in New Zealand gave Shiling sufficient engine power to sail to Singapore for permanent repairs,” a spokesperson told the New Zealand Herald. 

The Harbourmaster last month told the media he was not happy that the same ship had blacked out at the port. The Shiling had experienced a brief power problem at Wellington in February and before that another blackout in July 2022. Based on the history of the vessel, the Harbourmaster said they were concerned over the condition of the vessel and setting conditions to ensure it could sail and if there was a problem, they could get it safely back to the dock.

Maritime NZ told the media the concern is to get the vessel back to dock now for the safety of the 24 crew aboard noting that it is easier to address the crew’s needs at dock than in the anchorage. While they are reporting that weather conditions “continue to remain favorable,” they said a passage plan is being developed based on weather and safety concerns.

“As the passage plan is developed, a risk assessment will be undertaken and the Maritime Incident Response Team will have oversight to ensure it is done correctly,” said Maritime NZ. They are reporting that according to the current forecast, the next potential weather window for relocation is on Friday. They are emphasizing however that no formal decision has been made and the cost of the towing would be the responsibility of the Shiling’s owners and their insurers. Port officials are also emphasizing the need for planning with the CentrePort terminal to limit further disruptions to the port in the event the ship is brought back to Wellington.