South Africa’s ‘worst’ maritime disaster – the sinking of the S.S Mendi – relived at the 2017 World Maritime Day celebrations in Pondoland

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Pretoria: 03 October 2017

The staging of this year’s World Maritime Day celebrations at the Wild Coast town of Port St Johns in the O.R Tambo District Municipality of the Eastern Cape province, by some accounts, arguably proved its worth beyond the simple recognition of the region as among South Africa’s undeserving highly underdeveloped areas, yet with direct access to 800 km of ocean space.

 

By design, the event on Wednesday (27 September), the first of two days of celebration, provided an opportunity for the AmaMpondo clan to also formally commemorate the 100th year of the sinking of the S.S Mendi – a 4000 ton British steamship that perished off the English Channel in 1917 along with just over 600 black South Africans soldiers, and dozens of whom were from the O.R Tambo District Municipality.

PrintAccording to historical record, among those who perished during the sinking of SS Mendi were AmaMpondo chiefs Hendry Bokleni, Dokoda, Richard Ndamase, Mxonywa Bangani and Mongameli, and the Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha.

The O.R Tambo district municipality settled along the Eastern Cape’s coastline is named after one of South Africa’s most famous liberation struggle icons and former president of the African National Congress, the late Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo who – along with Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela – was born in Mbizana and whose political contribution to the country’s liberation is also being celebrated in the country throughout 2017.

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S.S Mendi Troopship Tragedy film  creater and narrator, Mr Mzwanele ‘Zwai’ Mgijima of Port Elizabeth (Standing) addressing mostly high school pupils and their teachers about the making the film, S.S Mendi Troopship, at World Maritime Day 2017 celebration event on Wednesday, 27 September 2017, in Port St Johns that was also dedicated to the memory of the sinking of the S.S Mendi.

At last Wednesday’s World Maritime Day event staged at Port St Johns’ golf course, in a uniquely refreshing, educational and entertainingly fun way, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) through its Maritime Heritage project, brought to life the tragic sinking of the S.S Mendi a century ago this year via a docu-drama film –  Troopship Tragedy – that was presented by its creator, researcher and narrator; Mr Mzwanele ‘Zwai’ Mgijima of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

The almost hour long movie’s production in 2015 was directed by Marion Edmunds.

DSC_1082 (3)For his very presence at the event, Mr Mgijima, a stage actor and storyteller who, during production of the film, traveled from the rural O. R Tambo District Municipality area to England to find the sunken S.S Mendi and bring back to South Africa the spirits of the SA Native Labour Contingent’s members who perished therein, was as much a source of amazement and delight for the approximately 500 school learners and teachers at the event as was the film presentation itself.

The World Maritime Day event, an annual celebration driven by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was staged in Port St Johns this year through a collaborative effort involving government departments including Transport, Tourism, Basic Education, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government and SAMSA; to also observe the centenaries of the sinking of the S.S Mendi, and O.R Tambo’s birth (were he alive this year).

 

The inclusion of a maritime heritage aspect followed to last year’s very successful inauguration of the SAMSA Maritime Heritage Project during the 38th World Maritime Day celebrations held at the Xhariep Dam in the Free State, in collaboration with  the South African National Heritage Council.

Remarking during last Thursday’s event, Mr Mgijima said: “I hastened to say yes to the invitation because I was going to interact with learners from local schools when watching the film, the SS Mendi Troopship Tragedy”.

“To me”, he said, “this was knowledge dissemination in real time as the film was researched and shot in Pondoland. That, for me, was like going back to the source!

 

“What humbled me most,” said Mr Mgijima, “was the fact that a group of learners and their teachers came back with their lunch packs to watch the film: they never touched their food while watching it!”

“’I teach them about the Mendi – their forgotten history’ a voice from their teacher.

“It was all silent during the viewing of the film. A dream realized by me that the history has been told through water and land,” concluded Mr Mgijima.

*The South African Maritime Safety Authority has a copy of the movie for its archives.

End

Prevention of accidents on board vessels, and timely reports thereon remains vital for a successful maritime sector: SAMSA

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Pretoria: 13 September 2017

The prevention of accidents and accurate, timely reporting thereon when incidents occur to and on board vessels in South African waters involving people’s lives, remains a key contributor to success of the development of the country’s maritime sector, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

Mosh 1The statement, contained in the latest issue of the SAMSA industry periodic report on incidents at sea ; the SAMSA Maritime Occupational Health & Safety Newsletter 2016 (15th Edition) comes in the wake of what the State agency responsible for safety of people and property at sea, describes as a noticeable significant poor reporting of incidents to and on board vessels.

This, SAMSA says; is characterized either by a failure to report, or very late reporting and none of which assists the organization in ensuring timely investigation and accurate recording of such incidents.

“SAMSA is still concerned at the non-reporting and/or late notification of incidents. During audits, these incidents are picked up and it is problematic to investigate an incident that happened months prior as SAMSA (is) unable to attend the scene, equipment involved has been moved and or repaired and witnesses cannot be located or their recollection of events has faded,” the agency says in the report.

According to SAMSA, in terms of the Merchant Shipping Act 1951, a series of serious injuries and accidents occurring on board vessels, whether the vessel is afloat or not, are required to be reported to it. But so should incidents involving mechanical and equipment failure that leads to an accident.

In the Maritime Occupational  Health & Safety Newsletter 2016 released this week, SAMSA gives an overview of operations in general in which incidents occurred on board vessels but also with specific focus on the stevedoring and ship repair subsectors.

Mosh 2In these subsectors, the report’s editor Kirsty Goodwin notes that in general in 2016 “for the sixth consecutive year, no stevedore fatalities occurred on board ships in South African ports.

“There has also been a steady decrease in the number of serious injuries, with eight injuries  reported in 2015 and five in 2016. This is a welcome improvement, which I hope is sustainable during busy periods when there is a necessity to use workers from labour brokers.”

But she also laments the fact “in the ship repair industry, it is with dismay that SAMSA reports a shore contractor was fatally injured on board a vessel in Saldanha…and that there was a slight decrease in the number of serious injuries that occurred on board vessels.”

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To read or download the full report in .pdf,  Click Here

End

Confirmed construction of a new Durban cruise terminal a boost for South Africa’s marine tourism

World Class Cruise Terminal Durban 3152017. An artist's impression

Pretoria: 04 June 2014

The formal confirmation of the winning bidder to construct a new modern multi-million rand worth cruise terminal at the port of Durban by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) this past week has been roundly welcomed in the country’s marine tourism sector.

Adding to the round of applause at the weekend was the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), a state agency that has been instrumental over the last few years in the drive to promote development of particularly the country’s coastal and marine tourism subsector as a critical part of the country’s economic development agenda.

The reaction came in the wake of TNPA on Wednesday (May 31, 2017) announcing KwaZulu Cruise Terminal Pty Ltd (KCT) as its preferred bidder for the design, development, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of the new cruise terminal facilities at the port of Durban on a portion of land measuring 27 800 meters at “A” and “B” Berths at point precinct, for a period of 20 years.

KwaZulu Cruise Terminal Pty Ltd is a joint venture between MSC Cruises SA (a subsidiary of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company SA) and Africa Armada Consortium (a black empowerment partner).

For the full story of the actual TNPA announcement, Click Here, or Here

In Pretoria at the weekend, SAMSA said the formal announcement of the winning bidder for development of the new cruise terminal at the port of Durban was a major boost for the country’s coastal and marine tourism.

“It is an impressive, bold and great step for tourism, and particularly so for the maritime sector and the general oceans economy,’ said the organization.

With coastal and marine tourism now having been included in the Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) labs since about a year ago, SAMSA continues to contribute to plans development for the country’s maritime economic sector in general.

“The final formal go ahead given the construction of the new cruise terminal in Durban marks the beginning of more similarly exciting developments the country can expect,” said SAMSA.

End.

Fishermen safely evacuated from sinking vessel in a dramatic rescue off the west coast of Western Cape

Port Nolloth: 24 April 2017

Six fishermen were successfully evacuated from a fishing vessel off the west coast near Port Nolloth in the Western Cape during the early hours of Friday in a dramatic rescue that ensued following to the vessel running aground.

In command of the rescue effort was South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) surveyor and acting Principal Officer for the Port Nolloth region, Captain Justin Coraizin  and a De Beers/SAPS team, during  which Capt Coraizin  personally saw to it that the men were safely evacuated in conditions he described as extremely dangerous.

Capt Coraizin said the Luderitz registered vessel, MV. Fukula, (previously, African Bounty) apparently drifted and ran aground in an unhospitable area off the Atlantic Ocean some 12,7 nautical miles, south of Port Nolloth while on route to Saldanha Bay.

Fishing vessel MV Fukula almost two-thirds deep in water after running aground off the west coast of the Western Cape. A rope used to evacuate its 6-crew member can be seen on the left of the picture, while equipment to contain a fuel spillage is also visible to the right of the vessel.

“It is not clear yet how the vessel got involved in the accident in clear calm seas. When we reached it, it was already two-thirds underwater and we immediately made the effort to rescue the 6-member crew, using ropes. The vessel is lying in a very difficult position that makes it hard to reach from the shore,” said Capt Coraizin

He described the area as being in the vicinity of De Beers mining area in the Atlantic Ocean and the site of the accident as being very remote, only reachable with off-road vehicles as the terrain is very rocky and sandy.

SHOCKED BUT SAFE: The 6-member crew of the MV Fukula which was evacuated in a dramatic rescue operation off the west coast of the Western Cape after its fishing vessel went aground in unhospitable terrain some 12.7 nautical miles south of Port Nolloth. They are (From Left), Mr Nkandi Lysias (skipper), Mr Simon Shikong (mate), Philemon Mbungu (chief engineer), Mr Shimbilinga Hafeni (bosun), Mr Petrus Nekamba (cook) and Mr Matthew Theodore (deck hand)

Shortly after the accident, the crew raised an alarm that was picked by the SAMSA Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Cape Town and to which Captain Cozairin and the charter vessel the Aukwatowa which was the first  responded to the scene from the local port in Port Nolloth.

He said the vessel Aukwatowa had been first to reach  the scene within a hour and half after incident occurred, and whereupon arrival, a rubber duck team was launched to investigate the accident. However due to dark conditions, this first effort was abandoned.

“However, we were lucky that our efforts worked well from the onset. We threw rope and it connected the first time, and after tightening it hard around some rocks, we managed to get each crewmen to climb towards shore and fortunately, each one of them was safely evacuated. The rescue effort took about 45 minutes,” said Capt Coraizin.

The rescue team had very limited – less than an hour window to get the crew to safety as the tide was coming in, said Capt Coraizin.

THE RESCUE TEAM: Captain Justin Coraizin (second left in green overalls) with members of the rescue team that braved and early morning to evacuate a crew of fishing vessel that went aground off the Atlantic Ocean coast on Friday night.

He said the fishing vessel had about 2500liters of diesel onboard and it appeared to be leaking. “We are closely monitoring the situation and taking such measures are are necessary to contain any spillage while we continue with our investigation of the incident,” he said.

End

South Africa ship registry bags one more vessel – a further boost to seafarers training

Pretoria: 19 March 2017

Æ: Reproduced and adapted from: Tugs, Towing & Offshore News. 18th Vol, No.23 Dated 19/03/17
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The Greatship Manisha. (Photo: Courtesy of shipspotting.com

Cape Town based vessels operator, seafarer recruitment and training company, Marine Crew Services (MCS) has responded to the South African Government’s call to increase employment and training opportunities for South African seafarers by registering a modern, multi-purpose platform supply and support vessel (MPSV) on the South African Ships Register.

The 93.67m MPSV, Greatship Manisha, is owned by Greatship Global Offshore Services Pte Limited. MCS has bareboat chartered the 4221 ton vessel to service its two-year contract with PetroSA.

While this is the first vessel to be registered by MCS under the South African Flag, it is not the first time it has employed South Africans on foreign-owned vessels.

“In fact, MCS, as the only private South African manning company with ISO 9001 accreditation, has for the past 14 years successfully trained and placed in excess of 880 South African and African officers, ratings and cadets on local and international vessels, among them the highest number of sea-going, black female seafarers in South Africa,” says Mr Lester Peteni, MCS Chairman.

The company also provides bursaries to Lawhill Maritime Centre graduates to enrol for tertiary Maritime Studies students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

According to MCS, the South African government, cognizant of the important role played by the maritime industry in South Africa – and its potential to provide training opportunities and employment for young South Africans – has introduced a number of initiatives with the aim of growing South Africa’s Oceans Economy under Operation Phakisa.

One of these initiatives – which also forms part of the 2017 Maritime Transport Policy – is to encourage more vessel owners to register their vessels under the South African Flag.

The local registration of the vessel adds to a steadily growing number of ships – four in total – now carrying the South African flag and which development contributes towards addressing a number of challenges facing both the maritime economic sector as well as the general economy.

Among the pressing challenges is the security of trade -estimated at 96% of South African exports – almost wholly dependent on ships owned and regulated in foreign countries.

According to the Maritime Policy (currently in draft format), South Africa’s share of fleet ownership in terms of volume is 2.233 thousand deadweight tonnes (DWT). Ship ownership currently stands at 0.13% of world total. National flagged fleet represents less than 0.01% of world total.

The other pressing challenge is the education, training and skills development of especially seafarers whose complete training requires placement onboard trade vessels.

According to Mr Daniel Ngubane, Group CEO of MCS. “The registration of the Greatship Manisha on the South African Ships Registry, supports this initiative and offers several important advantages.

“These include having the opportunity to provide employment for South African officers and ratings and most importantly, being able to offer young South Africans, who have completed their theoretical training, the opportunity to obtain the required, practical, seatime experience which forms part of their international qualification.”

Great Manisha 1Two South Africans have been serving on the ultra-modern vessel – which was previously registered in Singapore – and the move to the South African Ships Register will lead to a further seven South African seafarers joining the vessel upon registration. “Our aim is to have a 100% South African crew complement on this vessel and this will be achieved as South Africans with the requisite experience and skills in operating this type of vessel become available, “ says Mr Ngubane.

The South African crew complement will also include a Second Officer, Third Officer, Fourth Engineer and 6 ratings. Provision has also been made to take six South African trainee cadets on board once the vessel has been recognised by the South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) as a designated training vessel.

The seven years old supply vessel, manned by a total crew complement of 17, will be deployed off the coast of Mossel Bay.

Says Mr Peteni, “Although Singapore is widely considered as a more attractive ships register, the decision to move the Greatship Manisha onto the South African register is not only a perfect example of private companies and government working together to achieve a common goal, but it has been taken in the interests of supporting the growth of the South African maritime industry and Greatship should be commended on supporting this move.”

According to Mr Peteni, South African seafarers are highly regarded internationally and demand for senior South African officers is particularly high.

“Furthermore,” he says: “South Africa offers world-class training and certification standards which not only allows us to employ high quality seafarers on South African registered ships, but also creates an opportunity for South Africa to play a more active role in the global seafarer supply market.

“We at MCS, believe there is enormous potential to support Governmental aims by creating awareness of career opportunities at sea, thereby increasing the number of trainee seafarers, as well as the number of training berths made available to them. Registering this vessel on the South African flag represents a step in the right direction, and we are looking at adding further vessels to the SA Ships Registry in due course,” he says.

For the past 13 years, MCS has worked closely with international shipowners and managers to provide berths for South African cadets, a collaboration which Mr Ngubane describes as ‘highly successful and mutually beneficial ’as it has given them the opportunity to gain seatime while providing vessel owners and managers with additional certified, qualified and English speaking manpower.

End

Engine damaged vessel successfully rescued, docked in East London Friday.

BBC Shanghai: An Update

Pretoria: 17 March 2017

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A Antiqua Barbuda registered vessel that suffered engine trouble and risked running aground off the eastern coast of South Africa near Mbhashe on Wednesday evening has been successfully rescued and docked at the port of East London early on Friday, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has confirmed.

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For illustration only. One of Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) tugs – this one, the Qunu, located at the port of Port Elizabeth.

Captain Daron Burgess, technical manager for SAMSA’s southern region in Port Elizabeth said a Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) tug, SHASA; hooked up with the vessel shortly after 20h00 lon Thursday night off Mbashe Point and towed it to the port of East London. “They arrived at East London port at 05h30 this morning,” he said.

The successful rescue followed a dramatic and tense 56 hours after the vessel – a 4 900 tonne general cargo ship named BBC Shanghai, registered in Antiqua Barbuda – reported being in trouble with its engines while sailing off the Indian Ocean about a few hundred nautical miles south of Port St Johns towards East London in the Eastern Cape.

At the time,  the vessel’s position was at 21h48LT , 22.8NM east of Mbashe Point, south of Port St Johns. The BBC Shangai was believed to be travelling from Durban to Lagos in Nigeria. It had left the port of Durban on Monday and was scheduled for Lagos on or about 28 March.

After receiving a distress call, the Cape Town based SAMSA Maritime Rescue Coordinating Center (MRCC) immediately mobilized support and rescue for the stricken vessels, while efforts were also made to ensure  safety of its crew and cargo – the latter, to guard against possible spillages that would lead to ocean environmental degradation.

The situation remained under firm control on Friday while the vessel on tow of the TNPA tug, berthed at the port of East London.

End

 

Research and cadet training vessel, SA Agulhas back on home soil after successful Antarctica expedition

Port Elizabeth: 09 March 2017

With 30 cadets on board who scored no less than three months of continuous sailing both across the Indian Ocean and to the southern seas, the SA Agulhas, the country’s only research and seafarers’ dedicated training vessel dropped anchor on home sail again in Port Elizabeth on Thursday where it is scheduled to be welcomed with much fanfare.

The stopover at the port of Elizabeth this week to be marked by a formal “welcome back” event early on Friday morning scheduled to be beamed live on national television, will mark the end of a three month research and training expedition involving a group of Indian scientists and about 30 South African cadets that began shortly before Christmas in 2016 and took the group as far as the Antarctica.

The expedition involved the SA Agulhas departing from Cape Town headed for Port Louis in Mauritius where she took on board the group of Indian scientists prior to setting sail on the Indian Oceans towards the Antarctica.

It was the research and dedicated training vessel’s first long journey on otherwise familiar territory around the Antarctica in more than two years – an intervening period she’d been devoted strictly to cadet training and skills development by SAMSA while occasionally anchoring at Quay 500 at the port of Cape Town.

The cadet programme she is still engaged in is now managed by newly established South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) based at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, situated in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, and funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training through the National Skills Fund.

Early Friday morning, the crew of the vessel and their seafarer trainees (23 deck and 7 engine cadets) who were part of the expedition  are scheduled to be met and greeted by a number of senior officials of the respective institutions conjoined in the cadet training programme inclusive of SAMSA, SAIMI, the South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA) and Marine Crew Services (MSC) as well as Transnet and other government officials.

The “welcome back” event is scheduled to start at about 6am and last until about 10am at the port of Port Elizabeth

End.

 

Fire damaged Liberian flagged cargo vessel, APL Austria at Ngqurha, Port Elizabeth still being examined to determine cause of fire: SAMSA

Pretoria: 08 March 2017

Investigations into the cause of the fire that broke out on board a Liberian cargo vessel, the APL Austria, while sailing off the Indian Ocean along South Africa a few weeks ago continue in Port Elizabeth, with authorities indicating that it may be a while before they find answers.

According to the Captain Daron Burgess, a Principal Officer at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) southern region office in Port Elizabeth, the suspected cause of the fire currently is possibly a chemical known as a “calcium hypochlorite” that was found stowed under deck in No.4 cargo hold.

Wikipedia describes calcium hypochlorite as a chemical “commonly used to sanitize public swimming pools and disinfect drinking water. Calcium hypochlorite is also used in kitchens to disinfect surfaces and equipment. Other common uses include bathroom cleansers, household disinfectant sprays, algaecides, herbicides, and laundry detergents.”

Apparently according to Capt. Burgess, the presence of the chemical on board the vessel was somewhat mysterious as the vessel’s crew was “unaware of it as it was not declared as such.” Capt. Burgess stressed in statement on Tuesday however that: “The final report by fire experts has not been released yet and so we cannot confirm the cause.”

The APL Austria – a 72 000 ton, 280m wide cargo vessel – had been some 30 nautical miles south west of Jeffreys Bay – about 50-70 kilometers west of Port Elizabeth – when it reported a fire on board at about 5pm on Sunday, 12 February 2017. Shortly thereafter with rescue operations scrambled, it was then redirected overnight back to Port Elizabeth and eventually to its current docking location at the port of Ngqurha following to which its crew was evacuated while firefighters battled the blaze

A graphic map showing the exact location where the APL Austria was when it was diverted back to Port Elizabeth on Sunday afternoon after fire was reported to be blazing in one of its cargo holds.
A graphic map showing the exact location where the APL Austria was when it was diverted back to Port Elizabeth on Sunday afternoon after fire was reported to be blazing in one of its cargo holds.

On Tuesday this week, reporting on the continuing mop up operation on board the vessel Capt. Burgess said: “All damaged containers have been discharged from the vessel and the No.4 cargo hold is now empty and being mopped up. All empty CO2 cylinders (45kg x 444)  have been replenished and placed back on board. ”

He said high pressure hose cleaning began on Tuesday and was expected to be completed on Wednesday afternoon after which  investigators hoped to have a full view of the damage to the vessel.

According to Capt. Burgess repairs to damage caused by  the fire on board the vessel was unlikely to be conducted at the Ngqurha port. “The vessel has had SA repair companies attend to inspect damage and to give quotes for seen damage to ship and hatch covers.” He said it was likely the vessel might set sail again to elsewhere sometime next week.

End

Fire on Korean fishing vessel at port of Cape Town under control: port services uninterrupted

Pretoria: Sunday, 19 February 2017

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Korean fishing vessel, the No.101 GEUMJEONG listing to port as firefighters continued to battle a blaze on board in Cape Town on Sunday.

Port authorities at the port of Cape Town, working closely with the city’s firefighting services team, have managed to keep under control a raging fire that broke out on board a Korea fishing vessel, the No.101 Geumjeong on Saturday morning, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) reported Sunday.

sam_3528“The fire is under control, but has spread to the back (aft) of the vessel. The City of Cape Town Fire Services are rendering boundary cooling from the quay side and a TNPA tug from the waterside. The vessel is still listing to port and is trimmed by the stern, limiting firefighting capabilities on board,” said SAMSA acting Principal Officer for Cape Town, Captain Antoinette Keller.

According to Capt. Keller, the incident also has had no impact on shipping and posed no pollution risk currently even as pollution equipment was kept on standby should deployment become necessary.

Heavy smoke could be seen from a quite a distance in Cape Town yesterday after a fishing vessel docked at a repair quay caught alight in the early hour of Saturday.
Heavy smoke could be seen from a quite a distance in Cape Town yesterday after a fishing vessel docked at a repair quay caught alight in the early hours  of Saturday.

Capt. Keller said local authorities were alerted to the fire on board the No.101 Geumjeong at about 1.20am Saturday, prompting the City of Cape Town Fire Department to race to the scene – a repair quay at the port of Cape Town – where they were joined by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) crews.

“There is no reported loss of life and all individuals are accounted for. Currently there is no personnel on board and the fire is being addressed via boundary cooling for safety reasons, both from shore side and sea side. The vessels in the immediate vicinity have been safely moved to alternate berths,” she said.

According to Capt. Keller, an investigation will be conducted by SAMSA into the cause of the fire as soon as it has been put out.

Meanwhile in Port Elizabeth, where a cargo vessel had to make an emergency docking earlier in the week after it also caught on fire while sailing towards the Cape Peninsula, mopping up operations continued following to successful evacuation and dousing out of the fire.

Liberia flagged cargo vessel, APL Austria resting uneasily at the port of Ngqrurha near Port Elizabeth yesterday as a mop up phase began after rescue operations succeeded in putting out a raging fire on board the vessel since Sunday afternoon.
Liberia flagged cargo vessel, APL Austria resting uneasily at the port of Ngqrurha near Port Elizabeth yesterday as a mop up phase began after rescue operations succeeded in putting out a raging fire on board the vessel since Sunday afternoon.

“Mop-up operations and discharge of damaged containers are in progress, and causalty/incident investigation is in progress,” confirmed Captain Daron Burgess.

End

 

 

 

 

Fire-ravaged Liberian flagged cargo vessel at port of Ngqurha in mop up phase: SAMSA

Pretoria: 16 February 2017

Liberia flagged cargo vessel, APL Austria resting uneasily at the port of Ngqrurha near Port Elizabeth yesterday as a mop up phase began after rescue operations succeeded in putting out a raging fire on board the vessel since Sunday afternoon.
Liberia flagged cargo vessel, APL Austria resting uneasily at the port of Ngqurha near Port Elizabeth yesterday as a mop up phase began after rescue operations succeeded in putting out a raging fire on board the vessel since Sunday afternoon.

With the fire that raged for days on board the APL Austria docked at the port of Ngqura near Port Elizabeth now effectively extinguished, the vessel’s rescue has entered a mop-up phase during which debris and contaminated water filling up some of its cargo holds will be dispersed with, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) reported overnight. 

“The good news is that the fire on board is completely extinguished and port operations continued as per normal (with) two additional large container ships docking at the port today (Wednesday) where for a while no ships were allowed into the port while the APL AUSTRIA was on fire” said Captain Daron Burgess, SAMSA’s technical manager for the Southern Region.

Some of the charred remains of containers being removed from the fire ravaged cargo vessel APL Austria docked at the port of Ngqura

According to Capt. Burgess the mop-up involves removal of damaged containers and containment of their content. The teams will also drain out approximately 3000 cubic meters (three thousand) of water, ash and residue inside of No.4 cargo hold of the vessel – a disposal that will be preceded by a scientific analysis of the water to determine its toxicity and related pollutants to the environment prior to dumping.

“The plan is that if the water contains no marine pollutants, then it will be transferred into ballast water tanks on board. However, if containing marine pollutants, we will have to re-assess the situation and most probably will have to discharge ashore in approved receptacles and to be disposed of according to DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) requirements,’ said Capt. Burgess.

Meanwhile, he said; two (2) fire experts had already begun inspecting the vessel to try and establish what caused the fire that ensued on Sunday afternoon while the APL Austria was sailing westward in the Indian Ocean alongside the South African coast towards the Cape Peninsula.

According to SAMSA’s Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) in Cape Town, the Liberia flagged cargo vessel was approximately 30 nautical miles south west of Jeffreys Bay – some 50-70 kilometers west of Port Elizabeth – when it raised an alarm about the fire on board at about 5pm.

A graphic map showing the exact location where the APL Austria was when it was diverted back to Port Elizabeth on Sunday afternoon after fire was reported to be blazing in one of its cargo holds.
A graphic map showing the exact location where the APL Austria was when it was diverted back to Port Elizabeth on Sunday afternoon after fire was reported to be blazing in one of its cargo holds.

The MRCC redirected the 72 000 ton, 280m wide vessel back to the port of Port Elizabeth overnight and later had it dock at the port of Ngqura by Monday where rescue operations both on board, on the ground as well as on water, got fully activated; with the vessel’s crew having been successfully evacuated.

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Last night, Capt. Burgess said initial inspection indicated that there was not much damage caused to the vessel itself by the fire. “No visual structural damages to No.4 cargo hold at this stage,’ he said adding that there were still about 16 containers remaining on board (ROB) on deck on top of No.4 hatch – two of which appeared to contain rice (25kg bags) and smoldering. “The plan is to discharge (these) ashore tomorrow and douse with water and de-stuff into skips – no immediate danger,” he said.

“There are also about 10 containers aft of accommodation (not at all related to fire) to discharge to accommodate replenishment of CO2-Room with 400 x 45kgs CO2 cylinders. The area is presently covered by these containers as it is situated aft of the accommodation and underdeck,” he said.

Centre aft pontoon of No.4 cargo hatch which opened up after an explosion on board. An investigation into the cause of the fire is now formally underway according to SAMSA

For continued maintenance of a safe working environment and to prevent any possible pollution of the seawater around the vessel, containment booms would stay deployed while overflows of contaminated water off the vessel would be sampled for analysis.

“All parties are satisfied with the progress of operation,” said Capt. Burgess.

End