The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has confirmed launch of an investigation into the incident of a vessel that caught on fire in Durban on Thursday and in which there were several casualties.
SAMSA confirmed that six (6) people had died during the fire incident on board the vessel.
SAMSA said the fishing vessel known as the TROPICAL 1 was Mozambique registered and that the agency was in the process of formally making contact with the Mozambican authorities to inform them about the incident.
According to SAMSA, the fishing vessel was docked at the Durban harbour for repair work when it caught on fire. The cause of the fire had not been established yet.
SAMSA said on Friday that bodies of the deceased crew had been retrieved and placed at a mortuary in Durban. Five of the deceased were Mozambican nationals while a sixth crew member was of Portuguese origin.
SAMSA said 12 other crew members were being attended to and that a SAMSA team was scheduled to meet them for a statement at about lunchtime on Friday.
SAMSA further said actual inspection of the vessel with the view to determining the cause of the fire would be undertaken as soon conditions allowed.
Mozambican authorities had already been verbally briefed via telephone, with a full report due to follow soon.
Meanwhile, photographs taken of the rescue effort on Thursday reflect on the ferocity of the fire and which led to the vessel listing on the port side.
Firefighters are seen doing to their best to save the vessel from complete destruction.
A South African seafarer has been confirmed dead along with three other crew members of a Maersk Line ship container that caught on fire in the Arabian Sea a week ago.
According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the name of the South African seafarer is Mr Stephen Bouch, a marine engineer from Johannesburg.
On Monday, Maersk Line, owners and operators of the container ship named Maersk Honam that caught on fire at sea some 900 km south of Oman while sailing from Singapore to the Suez last Tuesday, confirmed that three bodies of the four crew members who had been lost inside the vessel during an evacuation, were found in the vessel.
A fourth crew member of the container ship had not yet been found, but was also presumed dead, said Maersk Line Chief Operating Officer, Søren Toft.
It was not clear if Mr Bouch was among the three bodies found or might be the one whose body is still missing.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce that the human remains of three of the four missing crew members after the fire aboard Maersk Honam have been found on board the vessel. At this point in time our three colleagues are unidentified,” said Mr Toft
He said: “Given the time passed and the severe fire damages of the vessel we must conclude by now that we have lost all four colleagues who have been missing since the fire onboard Maersk Honam which began on 6 March. All four families of our deceased colleagues have been informed.
“Our most heartfelt condolences go out to families of our deceased colleagues. We share their sorrow and do our outmost to support them in this devastating time,” said Mr Toft in the statement.
A thorough search on board the Maersk Honam would continue, said Mr Toft adding that active search and rescue mission at sea would however be terminated.
A week ago, the company had confirmed that among the four crew members missing was a South African seafarer. The four were among a crew of 27 manning the vessel during its voyage when the massive blaze broke out of a cargo hold.
The 27 crew members were mostly from India (13), the Phillipines (9), Romania (1), South Africa (1), Thailand (2) and the United Kingdom (1).
Twenty three of the seafarers were successfully evacuated a while after the ship caught fire after it had become clear they could not contain the blaze themselves and called for assistance.
One of the 23 evacuated sailors, a Thai national, was reported eventually to have succumbed to his injuries last week while the rest of the crew was transferred to hospitals in India for treatment.
SAMSA which on behalf of South Africa, has declared itself a “substantially interested party” in the matter, said it would maintain contact with all relevant authorities while investigation of the incident continue.
These include the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) of the Singapore Transport Ministry which confirmed the launch of an investigation a week ago. The Maersk Line vessel built a year ago with a nominal capacity of 15 262 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit), is registered in Singapore.
Now also confirmed to be involved in the investigation is the India Marine Police, said Maersk Line on Monday.
The shipping company said in terms of the rest of the surviving crew of the Maersk Honam , all were recovering well and some had already been released from hospital.
“On land, the medical conditions of the evacuated crew members are progressing positively. All 22 have received medical treatment and the majority have been released from hospitals. Colleagues who initially received intensive care have been moved to a general ward and are recovering well. A crisis psychologist has been made available to all crew.
“Our colleagues that were evacuated to local hospitals in varying conditions of health are improving and we are now preparing to bring them back to their families as their condition allows,” said Mr Palle Laursen, Chief Technical Officer for Maersk Line.