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.
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.
Another location point illustration from the SAMSA MRCC
The estimated position of the BBC Shanghai as of late Wednesday night. (Illustration adopted from marinetraffic.com)
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.
Rescue efforts have been launched by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA ) Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) to assist retrieve a foreign vessel that was reportedly in distress off the eastern coast of South Africa near Port St Johns on Wednesday evening.
According to Captain Daron Burgess, technical manager for SAMSA’s southern region in Port Elizabeth, 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.
Its exact position at the time, according to the MRCC in Cape Town was at 21h48LT , 22.8NM east of Mbashe Point, south of Port St Johns. According to vessels tracking site, marinetraffic.com the BBC Shanghai was travelling from Durban headed for Lagos in Nigeria. It had left the port of Durban on Monday and was scheduled for Lagos on or about 28 March.
At midnight on Wednesday, Capt Burgess said while the MRCC kept the vessel’s situation under a close watch, rescue efforts were being coordinated between services in Port Elizabeth and East London to mobilize a set of tugs towards the vessel.
Capt Burgess reported the vessels as afloat and adrift and the rescue efforts were to first try and prevent it from running aground, keeping the safety of the crew and pollution of the environment in mind. He confirmed that SAMSA was also in the process of establishing the vessel’s type of cargo in order to try and secure it from possibly polluting the ocean should the situation deteriorate.
He confirmed that SAMSA was also in the process of establishing the vessel’s type of cargo in order to try and secure it from possibly polluting the ocean should the situation deteriorate.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The cause of a major blaze on board the APL Austria, a Liberian flagged cargo vessel now docked at Ngqura harbour, some 30km east of Port Elizabeth, may take time to determine; the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) said on Monday as firefighters continued to battle the blaze earlier in the day.
According to Captain Daron Burgess, a Principal Officer for SAMSA’s Southern region; rescue services were set in motion on Sunday afternoon, at approximately 5.49pm, after the SAMSA Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) located in Cape Town was alerted of a fire on board the container vessel.
At the time, according to Capt Burgess, the vessel was 30 nautical miles South-West of Cape St Francis – some 50-70 kilometers west of the city of Port Elizabeth.
He said when alerting the MRCC, the crew of the vessel had been of the impression that the fire was on the vessel’s “No.3 cargo hold” only to be later established as having broke out in its “No.4 cargo hold”.
The APL Austria built in 2007 is about 280 meters in length overall, with a beam of about 40m and a gross tonnage of about 71 867 tons and a deadweight of some 72 807t.
“The vessel was instructed to proceed to Algoa Bay anchorage and she arrived at the anchorage area at 02h00 this morning, Monday 13 February 2017. There are several containers containing hazardous cargo on deck above No.4 cargo hold, but fortunately none of them were on fire,” said Capt Burgess.
According to Capt Burgess, relevant senior officials of the port of Ngqurha, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and SAMSA boarded the vessel from about 4am on Monday for an assessment of its conditions while firefighters, inclusive of three TNPA harbour tugs assisted with the firefighting operation by providing boundary cooling.
“Lots of black smoke was emanating from the vessel. The weather conditions have been favourable since the incident occurred, with a light South-Easterly wind. The vessel heaved anchor at about O5hOO this morning and was instructed to proceed further out in the bay to clear the other vessels at the anchorage area. The tugs continued with boundary cooling during the morning hours; during the night the vessel used their on board fire extinguishing media.
“After the fire was relatively under control, arrangements were made to take the vessel into the Port of Ngqura with the Metro Fire Fighters on standby and to deal with the situation upon arrival alongside. The vessel entered the Port of Ngqura at approximately 10h00 this morning. It is not yet clear at this stage what caused the fire. An investigation will be undertaken once the fire is extinguished to try and establish the cause of the fire,” reported Capt Burgess.