Sydney Super Storm Causes Multiple-Vessel Incident

Published Oct 15, 2014 9:34 AM by The Maritime Executive

Skilled tugboat operators and ship pilots in Australia were able to prevent major damage to Sydney's commercial port on Tuesday night in a 9-hour operation, after the super storm that hit the city snapped the mooring lines of one container ship causing it to collide with another ship and shear the mooring lines of a third vessel.

The Hapag-Lloyd vessel Kiel Express broke free from its mooring in Port Botany as winds reached 126 kilometers per hour – category 2 cyclonic strength – just before 9:30 p.m. The ship cut the mooring of the OOCL Hong Kong, setting it adrift. The stern of the Kiel Express then smashed into the docked Safmarine vessel, Makutu. The Kiel Express then swung around to collide side by side, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

At one point, a PB Towage tug was at risk of being caught between the Kiel Express and the Makutu. Another tugboat became disabled when its propellers got caught on a mooring line cut loose on the Hong Kong.

Reports state that the OOCL Hong Kong is undergoing repairs after its stern was punctured by the bollards on the wharf as the vessel swung out after its mooring was cut.

Shipping operators had been warned to put out additional mooring to secure their vessels ahead of the storm. Fortunately, the mishap ended without any injury and no environmental damage.

While investigations continue, the ships appear to have suffered only superficial damage. Two cranes that had been hit will be able to resume operations. The port was due to reopen late on Wednesday night.

DP World, which operates the dock where the vessels were moored, will conduct a full investigation. Insurers and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority are also conducting investigations to ensure the vessels are seaworthy.

Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS) Australia advised that Sydney and Port Botany have been closed to all shipping movements since 10 p.m. yesterday evening (14th October) until further notice, due to storm force winds and swell at the pilot boarding grounds.

Stating: “A small intense low pressure system is currently located off the New South Wales coast near Sydney and the Hunter district and is moving slowly northwards with an associated trough. Gale to storm force southerly winds and large seas are extending along the coast behind the trough. The low and trough will move slowly further offshore during Wednesday with an associated gradual easing in the winds. A high pressure system will move across southern New South Wales by Friday, bringing more stable conditions for the later part of the week.”

Wind gusts can be 40 percent stronger than the averages given here, and maximum waves may be up to twice the height.