Container vessel issues mayday in New Zealand seas

·2-min read
Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS

Maritime New Zealand is responding to the mayday call of a Singaporean container vessel off the northwestern tip of South Island, with 24 crew preparing to abandon the ship before seas improved.

The Shiling, in port at Wellington for repairs for much of the past month, found itself in distress after departing the capital's harbour on Thursday.

It requested assistance at 8.27am Friday local time, escalating to a mayday call at 11am after losing power, with reports of eight-metre swells in the Tasman Sea.

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, Maritime NZ said heavy swell had the crew "preparing to abandon the vessel".

"Since the mayday call, conditions on scene have improved and the vessel master has stated he is currently comfortable staying on the vessel," it said.

The ocean-going tug boat Skandi Emerald was dispatched from New Plymouth by Maritime NZ and arrived at the vessel about 5pm.

It is not known where the Skandi Emerald will take the Shiling if it is unable to be repaired at sea.

Maritime NZ said there was "no risk" of the Shiling grounding about 40.7 kilometres north-northwest of Farewell Spit.

The Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) and the defence force (NZDF) are engaged in the unfolding incident.

Rescue helicopters have been sent from Auckland and Christchurch, with others in Nelson and New Plymouth on standby.

RCCNZ operations manager Michael Clulow said vessels from Nelson and Wellington have been "prepositioned to respond should the situation deteriorate".

At the RCCNZ's request, a defence aircraft has been sent to assess the ship's situation and a NH90 helicopter is on standby.

The mayday call comes after two tug boats came to the Shiling's rescue last month during a failed attempt to leave Wellington Harbour.

The Shiling lost power in the main shipping channel, drifting across a sandbar before dropping both anchors and requiring towing.

The incident disrupted Cook Island ferries and other shipping operations, leading Maritime NZ to impose conditions on the vessel's next departure after repairs.

Wellington harbourmaster Grant Nalder told news outlet Stuff he had "concerns about the reliability of the ship", which was en route to Singapore for repairs.