Pretoria: 05 April 2022
It may not be until after another 12 months before authorities get to know the real cause of the problematic chemical cargo South Africa has had to grapple with daily since arrival of the Marshall Islands registered cargo vessel bearing it, the NS Qingdao, initially in Durban, some six months ago.
Crucially though, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a statement in Pretoria last Thursday, ridding the vessel of the reactive chemical cargo has finally, successfuly been achieved and disposed of.
In the statement announcing the important milestone, SAMSA said: “The NS Qingdao has now completed the discharge of waste chemical cargo from hold No. 3 in Saldanha Bay, which brings to an end a salvage operation that started in October 2021.
“Waste cargo from the vessel’s hold No.3 was discharged in almost 1,000 skips and was responsibly disposed of at Vissershok High Hazardous Waste Management Site. Potentially contaminated ballast water pumped into ISO tanks was disposed of at the same site. During the discharge operation in the port of Saldanha Bay, no cargo residue entered the water,” said SAMSA.
Authorities also continued to keep a watchful eye in the surrounding ocean areas, without evidence to date that marine life and the environment were affected, said SAMSA.
“To date no threats to the marine life or environment related to the emergency disposal of cargo approximately 250 km offshore have been noted. Environmental Monitoring in accordance with the agreed EMP by the P&I Club’s appointed environmental specialists, in collaboration with DFFE, which includes amongst others satellite imaging of the area will continue,” said SAMSA
The agency further confirmed that an investigation into the cause of the chemical cargo’s instability and related matters would continue, involving a collaborative approach between vessel’s flag state, Marshall Islands and South African authorities, with the vessel remaining in detention pending proof of its seaworthiness.
Said SAMSA: “The vessel remains detained, subject to further inspections and repairs as required and will not be put to sea unless her seaworthiness can be confirmed. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and the Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment (DEFF) have reached agreement with the vessel’s owners and P&I Club to implement a medium to long term environmental monitoring program (EMP). The program will deal not only with any immediate impact but also monitor and mitigate any future impacts.
“The vessel’s Marshall Islands Flag State appointed Investigation Team is still investigating the root cause, with SAMSA sharing any available information. A final report which will be shared with SAMSA is expected to take approximately 12 months to complete.
“Again, SAMSA wishes to thank local and international members of a multi-disciplinary team who contributed to the containing and bringing of this emergency situation under control. The vessel owner should also be thanked for their continued cooperation with South African Authorities.”