Container ship towed after near miss

A container ship which lost power while navigating Otago Harbour was pulled into deeper water by a tug - having had a near miss with the shipping channel's sandbank.

In April, the 223m-long container ship Maersk Batur lost all power shortly after departing Port Chalmers, which prompted Port Otago's tugs Otago and Rangi to return to the ship and tow it back into deeper water.

The incident was, by regulation, reported by Port Otago to Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) and Otago's harbour master.

MNZ has, since February, suspended publishing its monthly incident summaries, as it considers privacy issues.

The Otago Harbour near miss came to light after it was disclosed in parliamentary question time, when Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee released reports of 50 ship-related collisions, or near misses, to Green Party MP Gareth Hughes.

Mr Hughes was criticising the Government for playing down recent shipping incidents in the wake of the 236m container ship Rena grounding, the subsequent oil clean-up and removal of the wreck from Astrolabe Reef, off Tauranga.

Included in the reports was a five-minute grounding of a 177m Singaporean cargo ship off New Plymouth's coast in May, which the master had not reported until five days after the incident.

Maersk Batur was reported as having had ''possible contact'' with sand at the edge of the channel in Otago Harbour.

Maersk NZ operations manager Stuart Jennings said he understood there had been a ''fuel flow failure'' aboard Maersk Batur while it was in the channel and the engine ''cut out'', leading to the vessel's master dropping anchor and restarting the engine, all of which had taken only a ''short time'', he said.

''There were safety protocols of the port and ship in place which were enacted ... It was concluded there was no danger.''

The Singapore-registered 223m-long, 43,000 tonne-plus Maersk Batur is a regular visitor to Port Chalmers, and global shipping giant Maersk is the port's largest customer.

Port Otago chief executive Geoff Plunket said Port Otago's 100% owner, the Otago Regional Council, had been informed after the mandatory reporting to MNZ, the TAIC and Otago's harbour master.

None of the agencies had undertaken a formal investigation. Port Otago's own investigation was completed and found ''no issues'' for the port company, he said. He declined to release the findings, saying further comment had to come from Maersk.

The tugs Otago and Rangi accompanied Maersk Batur when it departed Port Chalmers, and they left the vessel several hundred metres from the port, as planned, Mr Plunket said.

However, they were called back and were ''immediately able to assist'' in towing Maersk Batur to deeper water.

The MNZ incident report said the ship, which had a Port Otago pilot on board, suffered ''a temporary power failure'', causing its bow to turn towards the channel edge, but with a tug's assistance the ship was moved to ''safe water''.

''The master of the ship reported possible contact of [the] ship's bow with [the] soft sand edge of the channel,'' MNZ said.

The cause was reported as a ''fuel flow meter'' issue, which caused the main engine and generator to become stuck.

Mr Plunket said there had been ''no serious incidents'' with vessels, such as a navigational marker or the channel being struck, in Otago Harbour in the past two years MNZ yesterday said it carried out a ''port state control'' inspection of Maersk Batur in Tauranga and a diver inspected the vessel in Auckland. No damage was found.

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