Stricken ship towed into Gladstone for repairs

UPDATE THURSDAY: Stricken ship Thor Commander arrived in Gladstone at 7am on Thursday and has docked at Auckland Point wharf with the assistance of ocean tug Smit Leopard.

Thor Commander suffered a main engine failure on Sunday.

The 132 metre long ship was secured by tow rope after having been adrift and heading towards the Great Barrier Reef due east of Mackay.

WEDNESDAY: Drifting uncontrolled and close to the Great Barrier Reef, the vessel Thor Commander narrowly avoided a maritime disaster, according to union and conservation spokespeople.

The ship, originally destined for Townsville, was being towed to Gladstone on Tuesday by the Gladstone-based tug Smit Leopard.

The Maritime Union of Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society have said the incident was a precursor of future issues, with the number of vessels traversing the reef expected to rise with port expansions.

The 132m vessel reported a damaged main engine on Sunday night.

It was helped by a Queensland Police vessel, a Chinese-flagged ship and the Gladstone tug crew, 379km north-east of Gladstone near the Swain Reefs group.

The Smit Leopard tug left Gladstone on Monday morning and attached a line to the ship on Tuesday afternoon.

It is now on the long haul back to Gladstone.

An Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokesman said the vessel was expected to arrive back in Gladstone on Wednesday afternoon.

When it arrives repairs to the engine will be done.

Thor Commander is an Antigua Barbuda-flagged vessel.

* Editor's note: This story was edited to correct the name of the tug boat in Wednesday's update.

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