Sydney Ports' Vessel Rescue A Comedy Of Errors

Sydney Ports Corporation’s handling of the Challenge vessel rescue operation has been woefully inadequate, the Maritime Union of Australia said today.

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[Picture: The 25-metre Challenge]  


The Challenge is a 100-tonne, 25-meters-long fishing vessel that has been stuck off Cronulla Point since Tuesday morning. So far attempts to salvage the boat have failed.

“You’ve got a 100-tonne ship and they are using a tug-boat that has a six-tonne bollard pull. That’s like trying to pull a parked car down the road using a kid’s scooter,” MUA Sydney Branch secretary Paul McAleer said.

“While there are emergency vessels ready to go nearby, Sydney Ports aren’t using the capacity that has been made available to them, instead they have tried to go it alone with an inadequate tug-boat.

“Sydney Ports seem to think this is an episode of Macgyver.

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[Picture: WWMD: What would MacGyver do?]  

“When you have the incident controller stripping down to his budgie smugglers and swimming out to the boat with a coil of rope, some duct tape and a knife between his teeth, you need to question the competency of this operation.

“There is also 6,000 litres of diesel and 400 litres of lube oil on board, so if this salvage operation isn’t managed properly it could result in an environmental disaster on one of Sydney’s most beautiful beaches.

“Despite a team of oil spill experts being located in Glebe, Sydney Ports haven’t even bothered calling them in.

“Most importantly, this incident proves that Sydney Ports just can’t get away with down-grading emergency services responses.”

Sydney Ports recently broke 25 years of best management practice by refusing to replace a damaged tug, the Shirley Smith, with a commercial vessel to ensure emergency rescue capacity is maintained in the Harbour during the repairs. It was only when the matter was brought to Fair Work Australia that Sydney Ports relented. 

“We have consistently argued to Sydney Ports that we cannot afford a reduction in emergency response capabilities at sea and our position has been vindicated yet again by today’s events,” Mr McAleer said.

“We refused to dock the Shirley Smith tug in protest – it would have left Sydney with no firefighting response at sea and there were already 26 cruise ships and a dozen tankers out of service in need of repair.

“We won’t let safety in and around Sydney Harbour be compromised by bad bureaucratic management.

“The O’Farrell Government needs to ensure that Sydney Ports maintain adequate capacity for safety services and those resources need to be used appropriately.”