Cargo ship Portland Bay and its 21 crew to spend another stormy night stranded off Sydney
© Provided by ABC NEWS An attempt to rescue the crew of the Portland Bay was deemed too dangerous. (Supplied: Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters)

A cargo ship and its 21 crew — that have already been the subject of two failed rescue attempts — will spend a second stormy night stranded off Sydney.

The Portland Bay, which is owned by a Hong Kong-based company, left Port Kembla about 7:30am yesterday and was headed for Melbourne, but lost power.

It had been drifting towards cliffs in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, before a tug boat pulled it further out to sea.

Port Authority of New South Wales chief executive Philip Holliday said the ship should have asked for help earlier and that an investigation into the incident would be launched.

“If I was going to be critical, I would say it took a little while before the ship let us know how close to the shore they were,” he said.

“There will be an investigation around all of that. They notified us with sufficient time, so ‘all’s well, ends well’.”

While the ship was towed away from the cliffs, plans to pull the ship into a port were aborted yesterday when the cable connecting the tug and the Portland Bay snapped in rough seas.

Two anchors and two tug boats will hold the Portland Bay in place tonight in the ocean off Cronulla.

Wild weather — which has sparked widespread flooding in Greater Sydney and rough seas off the coast of NSW — is beginning to ease.

The plan now is for three tug boats to tow the ship to Port Botany, in Sydney, tomorrow morning.

“It’s forecast to start easing at 3 o’clock tomorrow morning,” Mr Holliday said. “We’ll wait until around daylight before we bring the vessel into Port Botany.

“If the weather doesn’t abate to the extent that we need it, then it will just stay where it’s at.”

Mr Holliday says the original fault to the vessel came from the a “problem from the Turbo blower which helps cool the engine”, but crews had to keep using the engine in rough seas on Monday, causing more damage to it.

He said the engine was repairable and the vessel remained in a safe and stable position 1.2 nautical miles off the coast of Port Botany.

Mr Holliday said the ship’s owner would also foot the bill for the cost of the rescues.

Initially, the New South Wales government had hoped to be able to winch some of the 21 crew members to safety via helicopter, but that rescue attempt had to be abandoned due to the dire weather battering the area.

The ship’s owner, Pacific Basin, was contacted for comment.

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