Engineering experts have reassured the cruise industry that a similar Baltimore catastrophe is unlikely to cripple the world-famous Sydney Harbour Bridge.

This is because there are no pylons on the harbour bridge and all vessels are accompanied by a pilot or tugboats to keep them in the correct shipping lane.

The experts were commenting after it was revealed a cruise ship, MS Borealis operated by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines lost power in Sydney Harbour after the ship left White Bay Cruise Terminal, passing under the Harbour Bridge last month. About 50 minutes later, the ship suffered a blackout while navigating the waters near South Head.

MS Borealis drifted for “one mile… under pilotage”, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report. The ship “anchored off the heads for several hours” before power was restored.

The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge serves as one of Sydney's  most popular landmarks and tourist attractions.
The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge

What happened to MS Borealis

A Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines spokesman told the SMH: “Shortly after leaving Sydney, Australia, at 11:50 pm on 28th February, our ship Borealis lost power for a short amount of time.

“Our on-board technical team worked hard to establish the cause and restored all systems quickly. The ship returned to full operational power and continued its onward world cruise itinerary as planned.”

A power failure crippled the Singapore-flagged container ship MS Dali when it left the Port of Baltimore two days ago, causing it to lose control and collide with a support pylon of the 2.6km Francis Scott Key Bridge. The whole bridge collapsed within minutes, into the chilly Patapsco River. Six bridge maintenance workers plunged into the river, now presumed dead.

The ship was not accompanied by a tug boat to guide it out of the harbour.

Why the Sydney Harbour Bridge is pretty safe

In Sydney Harbour, cruise ships, tankers and container ships must have at least one tug boat or pilot to help guide and manoeuvre the vessel until it reaches the open sea.

Professor Wije Ariyaratne, NSW director of bridges and structures from 2000 to 2019, told the SMH that any ship headed for the Harbour Bridge pylons would probably run aground before inflicting any damage.

University of Sydney engineering expert Tim Wilkinson also said a similar Baltimore accident was unlikely to happen in Sydney.

This is because the Sydney Harbour Bridge does not have pylons in the harbour. Moreover, Australia requires pilots or tugboats to keep vessels in the correct shipping lane while moving through the harbour’s waters.

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