Bunkering services oil spill in Port Elizabeth under investigation: SAMSA

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One of early photos of the oil spillage incident during refuelling of a vessel off the coast of Port Elizabeth in the Indian Ocean on Saturday morning.

Pretoria: 07 July 2019

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says an investigation is underway to establish the cause of the oil spillage incident during a bunkering service off the port of Ngqhura near Port Elizabeth on Saturday morning,

This follows confirmed reports of an oil spillage at sea while a trade vessel was being refuelled. It was reported that as much 200-400 litters of fuel spilt into the ocean. However, the bunkering services company involved, SA Marine Fuels, soon activated an oil spillage control exercise to contain its spread on water.

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Spilled oil is visible immediately behind the Liberia flag carrying trade vessel, the Chrysanthi S off the coast of Port Elizabeth on at the weekend. The incident is now under investigation, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) (Photo: SAMSA)

A Department of Environmental, Forestry and Fisheries’ statement on Saturday said the vessel involved was the Liberia flag carrying trade ship known as the MV Chrysanthi S. The department said it had been “notified of an oil spill that took place in Algoa Bay in the early hours of Saturday. The incident took place at approximately 04h40 (in the) morning during offshore bunkering operations in Anchorage 1 of the Port of Nqura.

“It was reported that approximately 200 to 400 litters of fuel from the receiving vessel MV Chrysanthi S, flag state Liberia, was spilled into the sea as a result of overflow during the fuel transfer.  SA Marine Fuels proceeded to dispatch a commercial oil spill response service provider to mitigate and contain the spread of the spill.

“This incident is currently considered a Tier 1 level incident which does not require intervention from the national authorities as local resources are sufficient. The department will provide assistance if the incident escalates and requires it.”

The department further said weather conditions in the Algoa Bay area on Saturday were hindering operations, which include wildlife assessments.

“However, the situation has been reported to be managed and under control. The oil is not expected to reach the coast and currently moving in an offshore direction. Transnet National Ports Authority, South African National Parks (SANParks), the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) and other environmental bodies have been notified and are monitoring the situation along with our department.

” A contingency plan is in place for the Diaz Zone (Algoa Bay) and the Department will activate it should it be determined that oil is likely to wash ashore.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, SAMSA said it had become fully aware of the incident and that an investigation was being rolled out to establish its cause.

The agency in a statement said: “SAMSA with other authorities will conduct a comprehensive investigation of the incident. An inspection will be conducted tomorrow (Monday) to check if the beach and islands are not affected.”

SAMSA noted however at the time of its statement on Sunday, that monitoring of the oil had indicated that there were no oil traces on the water in the areas yet.

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More visuals of the oil accidentally spilled on the ocean during a refuelling of a vessel near Port Elizabeth at the weekend. It was estimated that between 200-400 litters of oil spilled over onto the ocean water.

In its earlier statement, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said it was  responsible for matters relating to the combating of oil pollution at sea under Section 52(1) of the South African Maritime Safety Authority Act.

The department said: “Specific arrangements and tactics for responding to incidents are contained in a suite of local oil spill contingency plans managed by the department.

The department further added than an Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg), consisting of various stakeholders including the department, had been established through Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy to address South Africa’s oil spill response capability in the marine environment.

“The IMOrg hosted an oil spill exercise in November 2018 testing the response capability in Algoa Bay and is also keeping a close watch of the incident circumstances and status,” said the department.

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Penguins rescuers in Port Elizabeth in line for possible compensation

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Pretoria: 01 September 2016

Organizations involved in the rescue of dozens of penguins caught up in an oil spill along the Indian Ocean coast near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape these last few weeks may be in line to recover some or all of the costs of the operation, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

According to SAMSA Centre for Shipping’s executive head Captain Nigel Campbell this week, a Panama registered Turkish owned vessel found to have been responsible for the disastrous oil spill near Port Elizabeth three weeks ago had been issued with an Admission of Contravention amounting to a total R502 000, in addition to a R1-million provided by the vessel’s insurers for purposes of reimbursing people and or organizations involved in the rescue and clean-up of the sea birds.

More than a hundred penguins inhabiting a small island known as Jahleel near the Ngqurha deep water port some 30 kilometers north east of Port Elizabeth (a.k.a Mandela Bay), were affected by the oil spillage and it took a number of rescue organizations to collect them for cleaning and rehabilitation.

logo1Captain Campbell, in a statement responding to concerns expressed by a senior official of the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) through a local Port Elizabeth daily newspaper this week, said SAMSA had responded immediately to two oil spillages that occurred in the vicinity.

The first spillage involved an accidental discharge of oil from a vessel loading bunkers and which sparked a concern at WESSA.

However, Captain Campbell to sought allay fears that the recently established shipping vessels’ bunkering service at the port of Port Elizabeth might prove problematic, indicating that the accidental spillage during the bunkering had been quickly cleaned up and was therefore not believed to have affected negatively the environment, but specifically wildlife.

Captain Campbell said: “The spill from the refuelling operation was approximately 100 litres and was cleaned up immediately. Although we are still awaiting the outcome of the testing of samples taken SAMSA strongly believes that this was not the source of the oil on the penguins.

“Some two days after this spill a large oil slick was found in the bay and additional slicks were noted further down the coast as far as Jeffrey’s Bay. Our investigation identified a vessel on passage to Cape Town that had pumped oily waste into the sea over a stretch of approximately 120 nautical miles through a faulty oily water separator.

penguins pe 1“The Turkish owned, Panamanian registered bulk carrier was subsequently detained in Cape Town as being unseaworthy. It was issued with an Admission of Contravention of R127 000 for this as well as an additional R375 000 for illegal discharge of oily waste.

“Furthermore the owners, through their insurers were required to lodge an undertaking of R1million to reimburse those parties that reacted to the spill, this would include the cleaning of penguins. The ship was only released from detention when all monies had been deposited,” said Captain Campbell.

Captain Campbell further explained the management of these Admissions of Contravention in terms of relevant legislation. He said the fines were essentially an “Admission of Contravention” in terms of Marine Pollution (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act No 2 of 1986.

“The monies received are deposited into the Maritime Fund which is managed by SAMSA but is controlled by the Minister of Transport.

“In terms of the SAMSA Act, an application to the Minister can be made only for the purpose of furthering the objectives of the Authority (SAMSA) and in this case, this would be ‘to prevent and combat pollution of the marine environment by ships’. The rehabilitation of wildlife would therefore be considered,” he said.

Meanwhile, WESSA chairman of the Algoa Bay (Port Elizabeth) branch, Ms Martheanne Finnemore in her letter published in The Herald; praised both SAMSA as well as the several organizations that responded quickly and decisively in alleviating the plight of the wild sea birds affected by the oil slick.

She said: “Well done SAMSA for imposing a fine of R350 000 on the ship that caused the spillage during the oil transfer. This money should be channelled to those voluntary organizations such as SAMREC (South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre) and to SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) and its facility at Cape St Francis Bay to enable them to continue doing their amazing work in rescuing and rehabilitating these iconic birds.”
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