A Japanese bulker has been stabilised after taking on water off Australia on Tuesday.

Australian authorities said the 181,000-dwt Frontier Unity (built 2012) sent a distress signal off Hay Point near Mackay in Queensland.

The Panama-flag capesize, owned by Japan’s Nissen Kaiun, reported seven metres of water in its engine room.

There was a crew of 24 people on the ship, which is not carrying a cargo.

AIS shows the ship has been at anchor off the port since 22 December.

An Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) representative said it was notified of an incident off Hay Point early in the afternoon.

“AMSA was informed the Panama-flagged bulk carrier ship Frontier Unity was experiencing water ingress into its engine room following repair work undertaken by commercial divers,” AAP was told.

"As the ship is within port limits and under the National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies, Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) is the lead agency responding to this incident, with AMSA providing additional support," the spokesperson added.

AMSA has a representative at the scene.

Equipment to be airlifted

The agency has tasked a Cairns-based Challenger aircraft to drop de-watering pumps onto the vessel.

No injuries have been reported.

“All parties involved are working collaboratively in the response to this incident to minimise risk to safety or the environment,” AMSA said.

The ship has been reported as “stable”, with the water ingress halted.

Two tugs were in attendance.

The bulker has insurance through the North of England club.

There are no port state control detentions on its record.