Papua New Guinea's National Maritime Safety Authority says it's not equipped to deal with a major shipping incident.
The senior search and rescue co-ordinator says favourable weather and an Australian warship averted an environmental catastrophe off the coast south east of Port Moresby earlier this week.
Freddie Siroi says a German container ship, the Vega Fynen, was on its way to Lae on Monday when it lost power to its main engine and began drifting towards a reef.
He says it was fortunate that the HMAS Broome was in the area and able to be diverted to tow the ship to safety.
"The weather in the area improved towards the evening so the drift slowed more down so we were betting on nature not to turn away from us and lead us into a more catastrophic ending."
Freddie Siroi says work is underway to ensure that the maritime safety authority can respond to such events without having to rely on outside help.