The deadly storm over Sydney has authorities worried huge ships could 'surf' into the city harbour

A Manly ferry crosses the heads. Ferry services across Sydney Harbour are closed. Photo: Getty Images

The deadly storm battering the coast around Sydney has led to the rare closure of four ports between Newcastle and Wollongong, including Sydney Harbour, to commercial shipping for up to two days.

One of the ships stuck outside Sydney Harbour is the cruise liner Carnival Spirit, which is rolling in swells of up to 13m.

The swell is so large that authorities are concerned the crew could lose control of the 85,000 tonne ship if it started to “surf” into the harbour.

A passenger aboard posted this video which shows the huge scale of the seas.

Three people have been confirmed dead north of Sydney after the freak weather front hit the coast last night. Conditions have been described as “cyclonic”.

Harbour Master Captain Phil Holliday closed the ports this morning shortly before 8am, local time.

“Heavy conditions normally see a suspension of pilot services that in turn mean commercial ships can’t enter or leave port,” he said.

“However, with storm force winds of 50 knots (close to 100kph) driving swells of around 13 metres off the coast and more than eight metres through the heads, the closure is not just about the safety of our pilots and but also for the safety of the ships, passengers and crews.”

Eight ships are now riding out the storm off the coast.

Captain Holliday says conditions will be reviewed later today, but will have to abate substantially before the ports can be reopened.

Port Botany and Port Kembla are closed and unlikely to reopen until late tomorrow or Thursday. Commercial shipping in the Hunter is also suspended into Newcastle.

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