The clean up of an oil spill recently in Algoa Bay on South Africa’s eastern (Indian Ocean) seaboard has formally been concluded, with bunkering services (ship-to-ship fuel transfers) back in business, authorities responsible for the incident management – among them being the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) – announced in Pretoria on Monday.
“The oil spill clean-up in Algoa Bay has concluded and the incident has been closed and response and monitoring will return to normal status,” read a statement issued jointly by SAMSA, the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DFFE) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).
This came almost a week after the lifting of a suspension imposed on bunkering services in the ocean space area following to an incident of an oil spill between two vessels belonging to the same bunkering services company while transferring oil between them on Monday, 23 May 2022.
According to the oil spill incident management authorities, the cause of the oil spill is still being investigated.
Meanwhile, they said: “The conclusion (of the clean-up) follows days of monitoring of the St Croix Island group by the SANPARKS rangers following an oil spill on Monday, 23 May 2022. The last monitoring exercise was done on Thursday, 09 June 2022 and there were no oiled birds reported. The beaches that form part of the Addo Marine Reserve have also been inspected with no reports of oil or oiled wildlife.
“Both vessels have been cleaned and returned to service. A debrief has been concluded with the responders to assess how the response can be improved in the future. An investigation into the course of the spillage is ongoing by the Authorities.”
Two oil tankers involved in an oil spill incident at Algoa Bay on South Africa’s eastern seaboard near Ngqurha have been finally separated, a few days after accidentally spilling oil at sea what conducting a ship-to-ship transfer about midday on Monday this week.
Incident management authorities, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) said in a joint statement on Thursday afternoon that the cause of the oil spill was still under investigation.
Initially, the two vessels were kept side-to-side since the incident, in order to contain the spillage in their location, said the authorities. Now, with much of the oil around them collected from the waters, the authorities released the smaller tanker to sail back to the port of Port Elizabeth while the bigger one remained anchored offshore awaiting a berth at the port.
SAMSA, DFFE and Transnet said on Thursday: ” The investigation into the cause of the oil spill on Monday in Algoa Bay is continuing. The clean-up and recovery of the spilled oil continued this morning (Thursday 26 May), (with) the recovery teams also continu(ing) with the aerial surveillance, using a drone and oil recovery boats.
“The two (2) vessels involved were separated yesterday (25 May 2022) and the smaller vessel MT Lefkas has berthed at the port of Port Elizabeth and all the oiled equipment has been removed from the water thus posing no pollution threat to the port and its operations. The motor tanker Umnenga II is not able to enter port yet due to the unavailability of a suitable berth,” said.
According to the authorities, “None of the oil has reached the beaches. Most of the oil was cleaned and there is no oil sheen visible on the waters.
They further indicated that boat patrols by SANParks “revealed no oil near the Algoa Bay Islands and no oiled birds were spotted.”
That nowithstanding, they urged members of the public to report oiled birds and wildlife to SANPARKS or SANCCOB Gqeberha at Cape Recife Nature Reserve on 063 942 4702, “but not to approach or try to capture the affected wildlife. Rangers will continue to monitor the Islands for oiled birds retuning from their feeding grounds in Algoa Bay.”
Meanwhile, their surveillance of the coastal areas as well as the ocean adjacent the oil spill incident was continuing.
“A fixed wing aircraft with the state-of-the-art oil sensing equipment has been charted from Cape Town to conduct a full search for any oil over the entire Algoa Bay area. The aircraft will use high-definition cameras and oil detection systems to complete a full aerial surveillance of the Algoa Bay area.
“If there is any oil spotted the aircraft will also complete live oil spill modelling to determine the direction of oil, however the authorities are optimistic that most of the oil has been recovered and only the vessel hull cleaning needs to be completed. The Environmental Protection Vessel , the Sarah Baartman is on standby in Algoa Bay to assist with the clean-up operations,” they said.
They further confirmed that bunkering operations remain suspended.
Off shore bunkering services, otherwise known as ship-to-ship oil/fuel transfers remain suspended in Algoa Bay near Ngqurha (a.k.a Port Elizabeth) on South Africa’s eastern seaboard as a national incident management structure strengthens its grip on containment measures of an oil spill at sea that occurred at midday on Monday.
This is according to a joint statement by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) in Pretoria just after lunch hour on Wednesday, this following several measures undertaken to contain the oil spill – including an aerial surveillance of the coastal region to be carried out twice a day until such time that the authorities are satisfied it is no longer necessary.
According to the parties, the oil spill in the ocean occurred while two tanker vessels belonging to the same bunkering services firm, Minerva, were conducting an oil transfer at about midday on Monday. It had not yet been established what led to the incident, they said.
On being alerted, however, according to the authorities; the country’s oil spill incident management structure immediately launched an oil spill containment and extraction process in place, which included a suspension of ship-to-ship transfers in the period until further notice.
In the statement on Wednesday, said SAMSA/DFFE and TNPA: “Five oil recovery boats are being used to collect the oil and by Tuesday afternoon all the visible heavy oil had been collected while large patches of light oil sheen were spotted in Algoa Bay.
“A helicopter was used for aerial surveillance and to assist in directing the boats towards the oil sheen for collection. However due to rough sea conditions, the oil recovery was suspended by 15:35. The removal of the oil (soaked) “oil absorbent material” between the two vessels continued throughout the night.
“Aerial surveillance has been increased to two flights per day from today (Wednesday) with a vessel launched (with a) small drone assisting with the clean-up operations and continuous aerial surveillance in the immediate area around the vessel.
“The DFFE offshore patrol vessel Sarah Baartman will arrive in Algoa Bay tonight and will be available to assist with clean-up operations if need be,” they said.
With regards the expanse of the oil spread on the ocean area affected, the authorities said: “Oil spill modelling provided by the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) indicates that the oil will not impact the Swartkops River nor (Nelson Mandela Bay) Metro beaches, but will drift eastward towards the beaches of Woody Cape. Beach inspections were carried out on Tuesday and will continue today.”
On fears about the oil soaking wild sea birds in the area; the authorities said in the statement that: “No oiled birds or wildlife have been spotted so far. However, members of the public are requested to report such (sightings) to SANPARKS or SANCCOB Gqeberha at Cape Recife Nature Reserve on 063 942 4702, but not to approach or try to capture the affected wildlife.
Concerning the immediate fate of the two tankers involved in the oil spill incident, the authorities said the vessels were still alongside each other on location of the incident while a decision was being made on how best to further handle them.
They said: “Although the two tankers are still alongside each other as a preventative measure, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment are evaluating whether it is safe to bring the bunker tanker, MT Lefkas into port today while the motor tanker Umnenga II remain offshore in the bay until a berth is available in the Port of Ngqura. Both tankers are operated by Minerva Bunkering. The exact quantity of oil spilt is still under investigation.
Occurring just 10 days after the country’s multisectoral Interim Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) under the Department of Transport (DoT) conducted a five day training and live mock oil spillage management exercise near Robben Island, Western Cape, from May 9-13; SAMSA, DFFE and Transnet said Wednesday the unfortunate incident at Algoa Bay this week could not be more appropriately timed as the country was now properly prepared to handle incidents of the nature.
They said: “It is fortunate that the last full-scale joint industry-government oil spill response deployment exercise was held in Cape Town on 12-13 May where the National Oil Spill Response Plan was tried and tested.
“This exercise helped considerably to ensure that the response for the spill in Algoa Bay was managed in the best possible manner and allowed for the quick deployment of resources to contain the spread of the oil and oil spill modelling. An investigation has commenced to ascertain the cause of the spillage. Bunkering operations remains suspended in Algoa Bay.”
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says it will launch an investigation into an oil spillage incident that occurred on Monday in Algoa Bay near the port of Ngqurha on the eastern seaboard of South Africa.
According to SAMSA, the oil spillage incident occurred during a bunkering service or ‘ship-to-ship’ oil transfer, at about midday on Monday.
Initially deployed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) are two anti-pollution craft vessels to assist with containment of the spill, as well patrol boats by South African National Parks (SANParks) along the coastline.
Meanwhile, all bunkering operations were suspended to ensure proper coordination of the spill’s containment effort’s effectiveness and efficiencies.
In a brief statement in Pretoria on Tuesday, said SAMSA: “The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has initiated all relevant oil spill response teams as per the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan to assist with the containment and cleanup operation following an oil spill In Algoa Bay yesterday.
“The oil spill occurred on the 23rd (Monday) at around midday during a ship-to-ship transfer of oil. All the relevant pollution response units have been activated, and booms deployed to contain the oil around the vessels.
“The collecting of oil continued throughout the night last night (23 May). The 2 vessels will remain attached to help with the containment of the oil. All relevant authorities including the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) and are supporting the response where possible,” said SAMSA.
Regarding the threat to wild sea birds in the area, SAMSA confirmed that the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) was already on a “high state of readiness to receive oiled birds,” and urged the public to to report any oiled wildlife to SANPARKS.
SAMSA further reported that shortly after the incident was report to authorities; “SAMSA officials boarded the vessels to inspect the extent of the spill.
In addition, SAMSA would further conduct an aerial survey of the coastal area on Tuesday morning and further information would be shared with the public periodically.
The clean-up of the Algoa Bay ocean and adjacent coastline has been terminated in the absence of evidence of any further spread of the fuel, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) announced at the weekend.
In the statement, SAMSA said: “The clean-up of patches of small tar balls that were washed ashore, following the spill of bunker oil into the water during a vessel bunkering operation on the 17th of November 2021 in Algoa Bay, has come to an end.
“The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), SANPARKS and other stakeholders including the Department of Forestry Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) continue to monitor the remaining stretch beach for any additional oil/tar balls that may wash out. No further sightings of tar balls have been reported. The Incident Command team is in the process of demobilising and scaling down the response,” said SAMSA
The termination of the clean-up exercise which according to SAMSA, saw approximately 400 liters of oil recovered from the water, shall exclude the continuous monitoring of Algoa Bay’s islands by SANParks rangers and others involved for signs of oiled wildlife and birds.
“The Islands in Algoa Bay are being monitored for signs of oiled wildlife and birds by rangers from SANPARKS and SANCCOB as part of the routine operation.
“To date four (4) birds (three Cape Garnets and one African Penguin) were found to be contaminated by oil and have been captured. Two (2) of the captured birds have died – one, of malnutrition and the other of a fractured leg. The remaining ttwo (2) are being cared for by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB),” said SAMSA.
Closer collaboration and speedy reaction by parties involved in the oil spillage at sea near the port of Ngqurha in Port Elizabeth two weekends ago contributed immensely in ensuring that damage to the surrounding ocean environment, including wildlife, was minimised.
That is an assessment flowing from reports by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)’s in its engagement with several organisations and institutions in the public and private sectors in Port Elizabeth during the management of the incident over the last two weeks, since about 200-400 litres of oil accidentally spilled over into the sea while a foreign cargo vessel was being refuelled.
The oil spillage reportedly occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning (06 July 2019) while the Liberia flagged cargo vessel known as the MV CHRYSANTHI S (IMO No. 952 7441) was being refuelled.
Still ongoing investigations into the incident seemed to indicate that the oil spillage occurred on board the vessel after one of the fuel tank valves was not properly closed, leading to vast amounts of fuel accidentally spilling out onto both the vessel as well as at sea. At the time, the vessel had been with about 1300 metric tons of fuel.
According to SAMSA, the vessel’s crew of 20 seafarers – all of whom remained safe – led by its Captain immediately summoned for assistance, which was duly activated, to contain the spread of the oil in the sea. The shore based oil response team was activated to extract the oil from the sea.
SAMSA said as much as 360 litres of the fuel was eventually extracted from the waters. However, the oil had spread significantly on the ocean to impact wildlife, but particularly sea birds and penguins and about which 114 were rescued and cleaned of oil. The wildlife verified as affected as of Tuesday this week (16 July 2019) included African penguins, Cape cormorants, Cape gannets as well as about half a dozen African penguin eggs.
However, periodic assessments of the sea and coastline, involving aerial and boat inspections had indicated that the coastline had not been affected by the oil spill
According to SAMSA, the cargo vessel involved in the oil spill remained in detention for a period while an investigation was being conducted, and bunkering services were initially suspended, and later partially lifted to daytime only by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).
SAMSA said the vessel owners, Golden Flower Navigation Incorporated had through its various agencies, including insurers, since accepted liability for the oil spillage and made the necessary undertakings in compliance with relevant South African laws and regulations as well international conventions related to incidents of the nature, after which the detention of the vessel was lifted and it was allowed to continue with its international journey on Friday (12 July 2019).
SAMSA, South Africa’s agency under the Department of Transport solely mandated with responsibility for prevention of pollution of the seas by ships, said success of the management of the oil spill – a great threat to sea pollution – arose out of close collaboration and teamwork by all the entities involved.
These included the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), TNPA (port managers next to which the oil spill occurred), the bunkering services company involved in the ship refuelling operation, SA Marine Fuels; private sector oil spillage management services company, Extreme Projects; wildlife and environmental groupings, SANPARKS, SANCCOB, and others including the affected vessel’s crew and vessel owners and its agents.
According to SAMSA, a joint operations committee involving various stakeholders greatly assisted in steering management of the oil spill containment and extraction, rescue and clean-up of affected wildlife, regular inspections of the affected oceans environment for traces of oil spread, as well as settlement of costs responsibilities related to damage suffered and operations activated.
A further meeting of the JOC is scheduled for Port Elizabeth later on Wednesday.