Algoa Bay clean-up continues as shipowner files to cover costs – SAMSA

Pretoria: 23 November 2021

The monitoring of beaches and islands nearby Algoa Bay for ship fuel spread continues, while an investigation is underway into an oil spillage offshore that occured a week ago while a cargo vessel was taking bunkers, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) reports.

According to SAMSA in a statement in Pretoria on Tuesday, the investigation into the incident – conducted in terms of Section 264 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1951 (preliminary enquiry into shipping casualties) as well as principles outlined in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Mandatory Casualty Investigation Code’, may take anything up to 30 days to conclude.

However, in the meantime, SAMSA said the registered owner of the Croatia-flagged vessel named MV Solin, April Marine Inc, had already provided a “Letter of Understanding” to cover the costs of the clean-up.

The clean-up, now also involving a handful of wild birds – three Cape Garnets and one African Penguin found so far to have been contaminated – continues, with a service provider appointed to also remove tar balls found in the area and which will be examined to establish their origin and possible association with the oil spillage last week.

At the time of the incident, SAMSA said about about 80 liters of oil made it into sea water while the vessel was being refuelled.

In the statement on Tuesday, said SAMSA: “The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and other stakeholders including the Department of Forestry Fisheries and Environment (DEFF)  continues to monitor and investigate an oil spill that occurred during a vessel bunkering operation on the 17th of November at 13H15 in Algoa Bay.

“To date, a small amount of emulsified heavy fuel oil, commonly known as Tar Balls has washed ashore along the beach between Hougham Park and Sundays River. A service provider has been appointed to remove the tar balls, samples were collected and submitted to SAMSA to determine if the oil is from this incident.  

“To date four (4) birds ( three Cape Garnets and one African Penguin) were found to be contaminated by oil and have been captured and are being cared for by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).

“The beaches and islands are being monitored daily when weather permits for any additional oil/tar balls or oiled wildlife. The vessel Insurer is providing a “Letter of Undertaking” to cover the costs of the clean-up operation and the vessel should be released soon,” said SAMSA.

Meanwhile, in relation to another recent ship incident in St Helena Bay off the west coast, involving the foreign vessel known as NS Qingdao, SAMSA reported that due to bad weather in the area over the last few days, the vessel had to be ordered back offshore as a precautionary measures to prevent possible further exposure of its cargo to dangerous weather elements.

“Due to the wind and recent rains in St Helena, the cargo holds of the NS Qingdao were closed to prevent further incidents and she was instructed to sail 20 nautical miles offshore from St Helena  as a precautionary measure.  

“The aim is to open and ventilate the cargo hold offshore due to the  excess buildup of toxic fumes in the hold. Once the hold is properly ventilated, the vessel will return to St Helena to continue the discharge operation. She is being escorted by the tugs Umkhuseli and SA Amandla.

“NS Qingdao was on safe anchorage in St Helena Bay where she was towed after her chemical cargo become unstable due to contact with rain whilst discharging in the port of Durban,” said SAMSA.

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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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