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Rescuers Responding to New Mayday Call from Problem Plagued Boxship

containership Mayday
Rescue teams are heading toward the stricken vessel which is reportedly listing

Published May 11, 2023 9:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

Maritime New Zealand is responding to a Mayday call issued midday Friday, May 12 from a problem plagued containership that has been the center of a controversy at the Port of Wellington. They are reporting that the ship has once again lost power and steering and is drifting, but that while it is listing there is no immediate danger. Conditions improved after they issued the Mayday call and an ocean-going tug has been dispatched. A police launch is also standing-by as a precaution while reports indicate that an Air Force Hercules and a rescue helicopter have also been dispatched to the scene. 

The Singapore-registered containership Shiling (66,500 dwt) is no stranger to problems in New Zealand. Built in 2005, the 18-year-old vessel had only been released on Wednesday after a 24-day detention. During her previous power failure, she was maneuvering in the main channel in Wellington shortly after leaving her berth. She drifted across the harbor coming dangerously close to grounding. 

After the vessel was brought back to the dock, the Regional Harbourmaster for Wellington restricted the ship’s movements until engine repairs and tests had been undertaken and then maneuver tests were completed to the satisfaction of the pilot. In addition, the vessel was restricted to calm weather and required to be escorted to sea by a tug when she was finally permitted to sail.

Local elected officials however had questioned the safety of the vessel, highlighting that the Shiling had also had a brief engine stoppage on February 11 in Wellington Harbor. She also suffered an engine failure on July 4, 2022. After the April incident, they speculated if there was a risk of a more serious accident.

During her time at the pier, Shiling which has a capacity of 5,028 TEU was offloaded. The Harbourmaster permitted her to depart on May 9, with the understanding that she would be proceeding directly to Singapore for further repairs.

Hours after the Shiling headed out to sea, it was reported she was sheltering after encountering rough seas. Waves are reported to be running up to 26 feet north of Marlborough Sounds where the vessel had reached after her departure. Current reports place her approximately 22 nautical miles North-Northwest of Farewell Spit at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.

Maritime New Zealand reports they were advised at 0827 this morning that the vessel was encountering problems and two and a half hours later the Shiling issued an official Mayday call. The captain said they were preparing to abandon ship. New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission confirms that it has received reports that the vessel is listing and that they were monitoring events. However, about an hour later, Maritime NZ said the master advised conditions had improved and that at this time they were not abandoning ship.

“Due to where the vessel is, there is no risk of it running aground prior to the arrival of the ocean-going tug,” Maritime New Zealand said in its advisory. They are reporting that there are 24 crew aboard.

Maritime NZ’s Rescue Coordination Centre NZ has placed assets from NZ Police, Coastguard, and St John Airdesk on standby and will be tasking the assets as required. The police launch Lady Elizabeth IV is standing by to provide assistance. They are currently expecting the ocean-going tug Skandi Emerald to arrive from Taranaki by approximately 1700 to 1800 local time. The AIS signal for the offshore anchor handler, owned by DOF, shows she is sailing at near maximum speed of 13.6 knots to reach the containership. 

Maritime New Zealand reports this continues to be a developing situation and that further updates will be provided as events develop.