A vessel upon which fire broke out at the port of Port Elizabeth on Sunday will remain berthed until an investigation into the cause of the fire has been completed, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) confirmed on Monday.
According to SAMSA, the investigation which is already underway follows the breakout of a fire on board the Motor Fishing Vessel Lubbetje, some time on Sunday morning while it was docked at the port of Port Elizabeth.
The fire was successfully put out within hours and, according to SAMSA, only one person sustained minor injuries.
SAMSA Principal Officer (for the Port Elizabeth office), Capt. Neville Noble said on Monday: “I can confirm that SAMSA started an investigation into the fire onboard the Lubbetje yesterday. The fire was extinguished and the vessel is currently not in danger of sinking, but was prohibited from sailing pending further investigation. Received reports indicate that there was only minor injuries.”
According to Capt. Noble, the investigation is being prioritised and it is expected that it will completed soon.
The vessel is a 377 GT (34.87m) local fishing vessel owned by Premier Fishing.
The incident is reported to have not caused any disruption in shipping traffic through port of Port Elizabeth harbour.
A massive, painstaking and possibly long term clean up of the coastline for miles north and south of Durban to rid it of very tiny pellets that have polluted the area since the blistering rainstorm of 10 October 2017 and which left the port city with a repair bill worth an estimated R600-million, is now fully underway.
This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) a State agency charged with among other things, the environmental sound integrity of the country’s oceans.
As of Monday 30 October 2017, teams of workers have been hard at work since about a week ago retrieving the tiny pellets from the coastline sand in Durban with hope to reduce as much as is possible the float of the nurdles.
This followed a SAMSA directive to shipping group, the Mediterranean Shipping Company – operators of a shipping vessel from which the damaged containers carrying the cargo were lost and apparently deposited at sea – to conduct an assessment of the scale of pollution caused following the loss of cargo into the water in Durban harbour during the torrential natural disaster rainstorm that took place in earlier October .
On October 10, the day of the rainstorm, SAMSA and the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) had to prioritize the refloating and remooring of five drifting vessels and three of which had grounded in the port due to the extraordinary weather conditions characterized by very strong winds and rain.From the day onward, SAMSA supported by TNPA had been actively involved in containing and minimizing the impact of the damage caused in the Durban harbour.
On the day, two damaged shipping containers that had fallen into the harbour waters were secured and retrieved as soon as available resources had been successfully deployed on the five storm affected vessels.
Containment measures were implemented as soon as it was discovered that at least one of the fallen containers had held bags of plastic pellets. A while later, several bags were retrieved within the port waters and a clean-up operation was implemented by the Port Pollution Control department.
Later, sounding surveys were conducted by TNPA’s Dredging Services division supported by divers and drones, and which found no further obstructions or obstacles on the seabed within the port limits The port was declared safe for navigation on 13 October.
The port authority’s ongoing clean-up operations within port limits had also been targeting a significant inflow of waste that had discharged into the port from Umbilo, Amanzimnyama and Umhlatuzana Rivers, as well as the municipal stormwater system.
However, in the next few days a mixture of high and low density plastic cargo has been found in some parts of the ocean.
SAMSA Chief Operating Officer Sobantu Tilayi said MSC cooperated with the authorities for the clean-up operation which started a week ago, conducted surveillance and assessment of the extent of pollution in Durban harbour and the affected coastal areas.
Later SAMSA also met with the Durban Harbour Master and Pollution Control department, the Department of Environmental Affairs, and KZN Provincial Government, and KZN Wildlife.
From these meetings, Mr Tilayi indicated that SAMSA would undertake the monitoring and oversight role of the process while MSC would consult with the cargo owners for the technical details of the pollutant plastics.
He said area surveys of beaches up to Umhlanga on North Coast and Umkomas on the South Coast beaches was conducted by a service provider accompanied by SAMSA.
Mr Tilayi said: “A team to assess the extent of damage has traveled northwards and south wards. Local municipalities will be kept informed to enable surveillance team to access beaches.”
In the meantime on the direction of SAMSA, Drizit Environmental, was appointed and is leading the clean-up operation. On the weekend of 28 October 2017 strong winds interrupted the operation. However, favorable weather conditions prevailed on the Monday, 30 October 2017, and teams were back at work, cleaning the Durban beaches.
On Monday, Captain Hopewell Mkhize, a Principal Officer in the Durban SAMSA office said the clean up might take a while yet, hopefully with no severe interruptions by windy conditions. According to Capt Mkhize, windy conditions, such as was experienced on Sunday, 29 October 2017 were not useful as the tiny pellets simply blew away along with the sand.
For more comment from Capt Mkhize, click on the video.
Meanwhile, the SAMSA appointed environmental cleanup company, Drizit, has established a central collection point for the nurdles at Durban Ski Boat Club (79 Browns Rd, Point, Durban) where the pellets may be dropped off.
Drizit can be contacted on their 24- hour toll free line 0800 202 202.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Three more Chinese fishing vessels have been arrested on South African waters after they were found to have violated laws regulating the country’s territorial waters inclusive of the its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) confirmed on Monday.
The three trawlers currently berthed at the port of East London while undergoing further investigation were nabbed at the weekend off the coast of the Eastern Cape in the Indian Ocean during a joint operation with the South African Navy. Their arrest follows that of another Chinese vessel a week ago in Cape Town.
For more on this breaking story, see the DAFF and SAMSA media release earlier today