NYK vehicle carrier Kariyushi Leader lost steering in Bass Strait late last week and on Friday difficult weather conditions were buffeting the ship, hampering emergency towage operations.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has been assisting the Japanese-flagged 180-metre vessel, which has 23 crew onboard.

An AMSA spokesperson said on Friday afternoon the ship was about 100 kilometres south of Phillip Island in Victoria and it was making way under its own power, using bow thrusters to steer.

On Friday morning, AMSA’s Maritime Emergency Response Commander (MERCOM) Mark Morrow issued an intervention direction to the ship’s master to seek assistance from two emergency towage operators.

“Overnight weather conditions in the area were poor with 20-30 knot winds and 4-5-metre seas,” the AMSA spokesperson said.

“Over the course of [Friday], both emergency towage vessels have sustained damage. This has resulted in both tugs returning to shore,” they said.

“The situation is stable with the ship currently moving away from the coast. AMSA’s highest priority is keeping the ship and its crew safe and minimising risks to the coastline.”

Suguru Akaike of NYK’s media relations team told DCN repair work was expected to start on Saturday 9 September.

“All crew members are safe and no injuries have been reported,” he said.

“The vessel owner has dispatched tugboats to stabilise its position and prevent further drifting.”

He said the primary cargo consists of approximately 3000 passenger cars.

DCN understands the Geelong-based Svitzer tug Burra was attending the vessel in challenging conditions.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued gale warnings for Friday 8 September for all Victoria’s waters, including the Central Coast region.

The bureau has also issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds for much of the southern part of the state.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau told DCN it had been notified of an incident involving a car carrier in the area.

According to AIS data, the Kariyushi Leader appeared to start drifting at around 0100 on Friday.