Container ship in trouble at sea

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UPDATED 4.49pm: A decision is yet to be made whether a large container ship which lost its steering while at sea will be towed back to shore after leaving the Port of Tauranga today.

A maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand spokesman Michael Flyger said it was alerted about 9am today that a 35,000 tonne cargo vessel which left the Port of Tauranga in the early hours this morning got into difficulties with its steering.

The ship was headed to Noumea.

Mr Flyger said he understood there was no immediate danger to the crew on board, but was unable to say how many crew there were and what the ship was carrying.

The latest report involved the MED at 26 nautical miles off the Coromandel coast.

While the MED had limited steering, the vessel was still moving slowly by the pull and push of the tides, he said.

The master of the ship had reported that attempts were made to repair the steering and contact had been made with a Tauranga tug.

Given the size of the vessel it would require a large tug and fortunately one of the tugs used in the Rena recovery would be used in the rescue, he said.

Mr Flyger said the RCCNZ was waiting on a decision from the French owners whether to tow the vessel back to Tauranga or to Auckland.

If a decision was made to tow it to Auckland it would likely take at least a day, he said.

The centre would continue to monitor the situation.

Port of Tauranga's Sara Lunam said the incident happened outside of the port's waters and it was not in a position to comment.

EARLIER: A container ship which left the Port of Tauranga today is believed to be in trouble at sea, and it is possible local tug boats might be needed to tow it back to shore.

Bay of Plenty Regional maritime operations manager Reuben Fraser said while it was not playing an active role in the recovery of the vessel, named the MED, it had helped provide contact details to the crew for help.

Mr Fraser said the ship had experienced steering difficulties but was not in any immediate danger.

The vessel had been north of Mayor Island when it backtracked several kilometres and it was now travelling in a southwesterly direction.

It had been travelling toward Auckland.

Mr Fraser said he was unsure if the tugs would tow the vessel back to Tauranga, or if it would continue to Auckland.

Mr Fraser said it had provided contact details for the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand to the ship's crew.

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