13 MAY 2023 

A disabled Singapore register containership, Shiling, is under tow heading back to New Zealand after earlier in the day issuing a Mayday distress call. Maritime New Zealand is reporting that the situation is under control and they have released the rescue teams that had been on standby as well as ending the Mayday, but the investigation into the ongoing problems with the Shiling is just beginning.

The 66,500 dwt containership (5,028 TEU) had just been released from a 24-day detention in Wellington, New Zealand after its previous power failure. The ship has a history of failures over the past year which have raised concerns among both the maritime services and elected officials that the vessel’s problems could lead to a larger incident causing harm to the crew or an environmental disaster in New Zealand. After last month’s problem, the Wellington Harbour master called into question the ship’s reliability.

The Harbour master lifted the detention order on Wednesday, May 10 after testing and with the understanding that the containership would proceed to Singapore for additional repairs. This came after the Shiling blacked out and lost steering in Wellington harbor on April 15 causing it to drift across a sandbar and dangerously close to grounding. It also had a brief engine stoppage in February in Wellington Harbor and a power failure in July 2022.

After departing Wellington, the ship reported rough seas near the Cook Strait and as it was heading into the Tasman Sea. Waves were reported up to 26 feet with the news media saying the Shiling was taking shelter to wait out the weather. However, early Friday morning the ship contacted the government agency Maritime New Zealand and an hour and a half later issued the Mayday call. The master told Maritime New Zealand that the vessel had again blacked out and lost steering, drifting, and rolling in the seas. Reports said the vessel was listing with the crew preparing to abandon ship.

Rescue teams were dispatched with an air force plane to monitor the situation and a helicopter from the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter squad. One of DOF’s offshore anchor handlers also happened to be nearby in port as it is working on a contract for the oil and gas industry. They were able to secure its services to head to the containership.

The master later reported that the situation had stabilized and the crew was comfortable to stay aboard the disabled ship. Media reports said the seas had calmed with waves now at 16 feet and expected to fall to 6 to 7 feet by Saturday morning. Winds however were still at 15 mph.

The DOF vessel Skandi Emerald reached the Shiling at approximately 4:30 p.m. local time on Friday about five and a half hours after the Mayday call. They were able to reposition the Shiling into the wind and secure the tow line. Her AIS signal shows that she is proceeding at approximately 2.7 knots bound for Tasman Bay on the north coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

“The Skandi Emerald will tow the Shiling to a safe location, where it can anchor and be assessed for repairs,” Maritime New Zealand said in its update. They will continue to monitor the situation and begin a further investigation into the situation while reporting that rescue response teams had been released.

Elected officials had called into question the situation last month after the vessel broke down in the sheltered harbor and its previous history with two other power failures in the past year in New Zealand waters. They are now saying that they were lucky that the Skandi Emerald happened to be in New Zealand on assignment while calling for efforts to expand rescue resources and closely enforce maritime security.


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