Toxic fumes off cargo vessel in St Helena Bay pose no immediate threat to marine environment or people: SAMSA

A screen grab of a marinetraffic.com map location of the vessel, NS Qingdao as of Wednesday afternoon.

Pretoria: 10 November 2021

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has given assurance that toxic fumes coming off a vessel offshore near St Helena Bay pose no immediate threat to neither the marine environment nor to humans.

In a statement in Pretoria on Wednesday afternoon, SAMSA described the vessel concerned as a bulk carrier named the NS Qingdao, some of whose chemical cargo had apparently become unstable due to contact with rain water while it was discharging cargo in the port of Durban. Once the incident had been identified, the vessel was evacuated from the port and towed out to sea in order to ventilate its hatches offshore.

The SAMSA statement said: “The South African Maritime Authority are (s.i.c) aware of a vessel releasing toxic fumes in St. Helena Bay. The geared bulk carrier NS Qingdao suffered a chemical reaction after its cargo came into contact with rain water while discharging the cargo in the port of Durban. Concentrated toxic fumes were released into the atmosphere and as a result, the Transnet National Port Authority in consultation with SAMSA, DFFE and other stakeholders decided to evacuate the vessel from the port so that the hatches can be ventilated offshore.

“SAMSA directed the vessel to sail to a protected anchorage under the escort of the tug UMKHUSELI. The vessel has a full a team of salvors, chemical experts, hazmat teams and other emergency personnel on board to manage the operation safely, following defined emergency protocols. The owner is co-operating with the Authorities and has been very proactive to help contain the situation.

“The cargo will be discharged into skips, chemically neutralised and landed ashore at an approved dumping site in a safe and controlled manner.The vessel poses no immediate threat to the marine environment and humans,” said SAMSA

For an audio version of the statement click below:

A SAMSA statement by the Acting Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller

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