After losing time battling inclement weather characterised by strong winds, South Africa’s research vessel, the SA Agulhas II is on its way back from the Gough Island, after successfully rescuing the crew of the vessel that sunk just a mile away from the remote Atlantic Ocean island last week.
This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) which is coordinating the rescue and safe return of the 62 crew members who were onboard the Balize flagged research vessel, Geo Searcher, when it hit rocks and took water before it sunk to the bottom of the sea near Gough Island on Thursday last week.
On board the Geo Searcher at the time, were 47 South African, three (5) Portuguese, one (1) British, two (2) Ghanaian, one (1) Indonesian, four (4) Namibian and two (2) Tristan citizens,” said the updated statement.
On Wednesday, SAMSA reported the rescue crew of the SA Agulhas II hurriedly dispatched last week to fetch the seafarers off the stricken research fishing vessel as having encountered wild stormy weather on approach to the Gough Island.
“Bad weather with gale force winds has stalled the rescue operation since Tuesday (20 October 2020). Weather forecast for the coming 24 hours is also not looking any better but is being closely monitored. The evacuation will commence as soon as the weather subsides.The weather is reported to possibly subside from Thursday (22nd October 2020),” said SAMSA
On Thursday morning, SAMSA reported all as going well with the rescue mission, and that the SA Agulhas II was on its way back to South Africa.
“The SA Agulhas II is heading to TRISTAN Da CUNHA to drop the two Tristanian survivors from where the vessel will then proceed to Cape Town.
“Arrival in Cape Town will be dependent on weather conditions that may affect the sailing time. All indications are that it will take approximately 4 to 5 days before the vessel arrives in Cape Town.” said SAMSA.
The stricken crude oil tanker, Yua Hua Hu, is expected to finally reach the port of Durban sometime on Tuesday, in the tow of a tug, after more than seven days of reporting problems while sailing through South Africa’s Wild Coast on the Indian Ocean, reportedly on its way from Singapore to Libya on the west coast of Africa.
According to SAMSA in an update report, the vessel left Port St Johns coastline at about lunchtime on Saturday, under tow by the tug Pacific Dolphin, to the port of Durban and was expected to arrive at the port sometime on Tuesday.
The China flagged tanker was not carrying any cargo when it began experiencing problems a week ago in the vicinity of a South African part of the Indian Ocean that is historically known for its Wild Coast which over years have claimed many a vessel.
The tankers crew was reported to be safe.
Pretoria: 28 May 2020
Pretoria: Thursday 04.30pm (GMT)
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) continues to monitor the stricken crude tanker off port St Johns.
The tanker, the VLCC Yua Hua Hu remains safely anchored in 35 metres of water just off Port St. John’s. The vessel was monitored throughout the night and SAMSA can confirm that the vessel anchor is holding.
The tug “Siyanda” secured a tow to the stern of the tanker last night and is currently static towing the tanker while she is at anchor, awaiting the larger tug “Pacific Dolphin” to arrive on Saturday. The Pacific Dolphin has a bollard pull of 220 tonnes and will be used to tow the tanker to the port of Durban for repairs to her Main Engine and Stern Tube. The weather conditions do not present a threat to the vessel at this time.
Efforts continue in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of South Africa to save a stricken large oil tanker that reportedly ran aground on Tuesday, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)
The incident, one of three reported during the week involving commercial vessels in distress along South Africa’s oceans, involves a Chinese flagged super oil-tanker, YUA HUA HU which reportedly experienced unidentified problems while sailing through South Africa’s Indian Ocean area known as the Wild Coast on Tuesday.
The vessel was believed to have been sailing from Singapore to Angola on the west coast of Africa. SAMSA in a statement on Wednesday said the agency through its Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) based in Cape Town, was coordinating an emergency response to the immobilised large crude carrier, offshore of the Wild Coast near Port St Johns.
“The tanker is safely anchored one nautical mile off Dome Bluff on the outskirts of Port St Johns and being monitored by the MRCC. The tanker is not carrying any cargo. All 27 crew on-board the casualty vessel is reported to be safe and no injuries have been reported,’ reported SAMSA
The agency added that emergency rescue arrangements involved among others, the deployment of a tug owned by AMSOL from Durban. It was expected to rendevous with the stricken tanker at about 8pm on Wednesday.
“She will act as the standby tug until the arrival of the emergency towing tug (ETV), which was deployed from Cape Town this morning with an experienced Salvage Master on-board. The ETV is due to arrive at the tanker within 48hrs.
As part of the rescue effort, no less than five stations of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) along the Indian Ocean coastline, from Durban to East London with rescue swimmers, as well as a Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) helicopter would be on standy overnight, should they be needed, said SAMSA.
In addition, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DEFF) had also placed its Tier 1 Oil Pollution Response team and a privately owned Smit International Salvage team were also on alert, ready to deploy from Cape Town.
“SAMSA remains in direct communication with the vessel owner representatives and the master, who is providing their full cooperation to contain the threat to the South African coastline,” said SAMSA
Meanwhile on the west coast (Atlantic Ocean), SAMSA reported two other shipping incidents; one off Cape Town involving a cargo ship that had apparently caught on fire, and another in Saldahna Bay involving a fishing vessel that had run aground after being on caught on rocks at sea near the port.
According to SAMSA, in the Cape Town incident on Monday (25 May 2020), a vessel requested to anchor off port of Cape Town due to fire onboard. “Permission was granted to allow vessel Master and crew to fight the fire under a controlled environment.
“The cause of the fire had yet to be ascertained, but reported to have started from cargo hold number 6. The vessel Master also confirmed an explosion from the ship, resulting in the loss of two containers overboard. The vessel was then escorted by a sister ship MV XIN AN NING to the port of Cape Town.
“A first response team comprising of Salvage Master, SAMSA surveyors and City of Cape Town Firefighters boarded the vessel via helicopter to complete a damage assessment and determine the safety risk that the vessel posed, after which they agreed that it was safe for the vessel to board in the port.”
Further up the west coast, in Saldanha Bay, according to SAMSA, a “vessel ran aground at the harbour entrance yesterday, with 32 crew members onboard. National Sea Rescue Institute was activated and attended to the incident.
“The vessel is off the rocks and will be towed into port by a harbour tug boat. No oil spill has been reported at this stage, and a pollution boom has been deployed around the vessel as precautionary measure.
“The vessel was successfully refloated and brought into Saldanha and berthed alongside without any pollution incident. The vessel is now under tow, by the SA Amandla Tug, to Cape Town. The estimated date of arrival in Cape Town is 05 June 2020,” said SAMSA.
The fate of six stranded Asian sailors found in a desperate situation in a poorly conditioned vessel off the port of Cape Town recently may remain uncertain still, but their safety and general well-being going forward is ensured for time being, thanks to the timely intervention and assistance efforts of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
According to the agency, part of whose mandate is to ensure the safety of property and life at sea, the epic drama involving the six foreign sailors – two from Taiwan and four others from Mynmar, and some of whom now face possible legal sanction – apparently unfolded after SAMSA officials were alerted by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF) about a drifting, fuel-less and permit-less vessel spotted at sea, off the port of Cape Town on 02 December 2019.
Four of the six member crew of the Yong Qing Fa No.666 currently believed to have been abandoned by their employer and who are currently residing on board the crippled vessel at the port of Cape Town after it was detained following its unauthorized entry and anchorage in SA waters, and a subsequent C188 inspection that found it not seaworthy. The six member crew of the vessel consists of four seafarers from Mynmar and two others from Taiwan.
Captain Pierre Schutz, a deputy Principal Officer at SAMSA’s western region Cape Town office, recounted this week about how the agency’s officers scrambled to the rescue of the foreign seafarers to ensure primarily their safety and general welfare while their sea sailing troubles including legal issues were being interrogated for a possible resolution.
The legal woes facing both the owners and crew of the now quarantined fishing vessel known as the Yong Qing Fa No.666 but whose flag state has yet to be determined, it emerged, include the vessel’s unauthorized entry into South African sea waters, the absence on board of necessary documentation including certificates of nationality, tonnage, drawing plans, crew list, Voyage Management System (VMS) transmitting, and an off Automatic Identification System (AIS).
On entering South African waters without permission and dropping anchor near Cape Town harbor without authorization on 30 November 2019 due to apparent desperation for bunkers, the six member crew on board reportedly also initially failed to communicate properly their plight with local authorities due to language difficulties, until the Taiwanese Fisheries agency in South Africa got involved, almost a week later.
In fact, on entering the country’s waters in the Atlantic Ocean and putting anchor near the Cape Town port, according to SAMSA, based on TNPA reports, the vessel’s crew did so without following any protocols and had maintained complete radio silence, something unusual and illegal.
It had since emerged that the six crew members and their poorly maintained vessel had were likely abandoned by the owner, with four of the crew members having not been paid their wages.
According to SAMSA on Wednesday this week, two of the stranded seafarers, from Taiwan, had since been charged with certain law transgressions (unspecified) and were due to reappear in a Cape Town magistrate’s court on 27 January 2020.
Reporting about the drama, Capt. Schutz says SAMSA got drawn initially to the plight of the crew of the vessel – and which had since been established to have been sailing from West Africa to Mauritius – after respective authorities including the TNPA, DEFF and others, all bound by relevant legislation and protocols, were initially reluctant and refused it entry into a South African port without standard procedures having been fully observed.
These included a 21 day offshore containment period to determine the vessel and crew health condition that it did not carry any communicable diseases such as – in this case – Ebola, as the vessel had reportedly sailed from a West African region where the deadly disease is reputably rife.
He says 12 days after the drama ensued, with engagements ongoing among respective authorities, SAMSA appealed to the TNPA, DEFF and others to allow an inspection of the vessel and crew in order to facilitate provision of basic essentials to the crew, such as food and water. Crucially, this was also to ensure the safety of the vessel given its unauthorized anchorage which could prove hazardous to other sailing vessels in the vicinity if left unattended for too long.
By 13 December 2019, according to Capt. Schutz, the vessel was eventually allocated a berth in an isolated area at the port of Cape Town following to which nutrition was brought on board for the vessels’ crew while a variety of inspections were conducted.
He confirmed that a SAMSA inspection in terms of local and international legal instruments including the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) C188 – Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) found the vessel to be not seaworthy and it was officially detained, while a DEFF inspection led to the arrest of the vessel’s skipper and his subsequent appearances in court.
As of last week, according to Capt. Schutz, the vessel still had no power and it still had no local agent appointed to attend to its needs as required by law. Meanwhile Taiwanese authorities in South Africa were still not taking responsibility for a majority of the crew members on board the vessel while DEFF officials’ efforts to seek assistance from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) had proved fruitless so far.
Capt. Schutz says: “The SAMSA (Cape Town office) is liaising with DEFF in terms of the court appearance of two of the seafarers. It is also liaising with the local Apostleship of the Seas in terms of welfare and food. Currently also, SAMSA is supplying food while awaiting for the court appearance.”
Regarding the detention of the vessel, Capt. Schutz says its release will be conditional to the owners carrying out the repairs it is so advised to do and on completion, inform SAMSA.
“Once so advised, SAMSA would conduct another inspection, and if the vessel is found in good condition, the vessel would be released from detention. There is no time frame attached to this,” he says, save for a range of port charges it will incur, accruing to the TNPA, for its safekeeping at a South African port, and which could escalate depending on how long it takes to repair it.
Capt. Schutz says further that the vessels’ crew will be repatriated once all matters related are finalized to the satisfaction of South African authorities.
“The responsibility however lies with the owners. There has been no final decision in this regard,” he says.
Please note that this story has been updated to provide additional details and correct certain inaccuracies.
The reduction and prevention of deaths of fishermen along South Africa’s coastal area is among key priorities of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and efforts towards this goal are beginning to pay off, thanks in part to strategic partnerships forged with like-minded institutions domestically and abroad.
One such partnership is that with the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA) which has over the past year seen more than 1 000 small high tech vessel tracking devices acquired and distributed among particularly artisanal or subsistence fishermen across the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape provinces in order to enable them to quickly and seamlessly request for assistance whenever in trouble while out fishing at sea or on inland waterways.
The project known as ‘Project Oasis”, the first of its kind aimed subsistence fishermen, is being funded to the tune of R10-million by the UKSA and is operated by SAMSA. The UKSA is also working closely with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in the distribution of the device.
A UKSA team of officials, senior director of UKSA’s Caribou Space programme, Mr Tim Hayward and UKSA’s International Partnership Programme Director,Ms Athene Gadsby, visited South Africa recently to meet in Cape Town with SAMSA and the NSRI as well as a community of fishermen in Lamberts’ Bay on the Atlantic Ocean coastline north west of Cape Town to conduct an assessment of the impact of the project so far.
It was UKSA’s first visit of the region since launch of the project.
Outlining UKSA’s involvement in the project, according to the officials, the South Africa project is among 33 other worldwide project (37 countries) funded through the agency’s International Partnership Programme’s UK£30-million annual funding for developmental projects.
They said the ‘Project Oasis’ focus was in the distribution of a satellite technology based identifying and tracking devices known as the ‘SAT-AIS em-Trak I100 identifier trackers’ for small boats (less than 10 meters long). The target group for distribution and utilization of the device were artisanal fishermen – most of whom were generally poor.
The aim, they said, was to support SAMSA’s efforts in reducing casualties among the country’s subsistence fishing communities and reduction in exorbitant expenses incurred during rescue efforts.
While statistics of casualties shared with the agency by SAMSA reflected a significant decline in the number of fishermen dying at sea over the past decade, they also showed that the most at risk category of people at sea were subsistence fishermen who generally did not have the safety and communication equipment necessary to summon assistance and be located quickly when needed. They are generally poor and with only small boats that were hard to locate when in difficulties.
Explaining the exact functionality of the fishing boat tracking and identifier units, the UKSA officials said the devices were designed to be tracked in near real time using a set of exactEarth’s constellation of polar and equatorial orbiting AIS satellites, thereby allowing SAMSA to gain an up-to-date location of the small boats with an up-to-date last known position.
The devices also provide an SOS button that transmits a distress signal when an incident has occurred thereby enabling rescuers access to accurate information about the location and situation of a small fishing vessel.
The device which has since evolved to include a locally manufactured solar powered one, at an estimated cost of about R5 000 per unit, is distributed to small vessel fishermen in South Africa for free.
In a three minutes video interview, Ms Gadsby spoke more on the project. Click below.
Meanwhile according to SAMSA’s head of the Sea and Rescue Centre in Cape Town, Captain Karl Otto who led a SAMSA team of officials in welcoming and meeting with the UKSA officials, revealed that the project had been beneficial not only to South Africa but also five other neighboring countries; Namibia, Mozambique, Kenya, Mauritius and the Comoros.
He acknowledged that the project was still at its infancy and was encountering challenges,d among which was resistance by some subsistence fishermen based on apparent suspicion that the tracking device was also being used to police their activity.
“The true and sole objective to is enhance their safety and in the process also reduce the huge costs involved during search and rescue. We’d rather rescue fast than spend more time search, and the devices addresses exactly that need,” said Captain Otto.
In a 22 minutes in-video chat at his office shortly after the meeting with the UKSA officials, Captain Otto explained fully about the project: Click Here;
Quick action and a well coordinated response by the South African Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) saw about 16 crewmen of a Taiwanese vessel rescued successfully from the stricken vessel off the Indian Ocean on Tuesday morning.
The MRCC also confirmed that the vessel that first experienced difficulties sailing had soon caught fire and was slowly sinking, some 1100 nautical miles south east of Durban.
The dramatic rescue of sailors off the vessel, the Teng Ming Yang#268, according to the MRCC, ensued from about 6.45am (South African Time) after the centre picked up a distress signal from the vessel indicating a need for assistance.
“At 06h45 local time MRCC Cape Town was alerted via the COSPAS SARSAT system (EPIRB detection) of the Taiwanese fishing vessel Teng Ming Yang #268 possibly needing assistance.
“The distress position as per the detection placed the vessel more than 1100 kilometres South East of Durban within the South African Search and Rescue region. MRCC Cape Town Duty Team immediately contacted the Taipei Rescue Coordination Centre to obtain additional details. The satellite AIS system was used to identify any vessels near the casualty position that may be called upon to assist.
“Taipei RCC stated that the vessel had reported a fire onboard and the 16 crew were going to abandon the vessel to life rafts. A MAYDAY relay broadcast was issued by Telkom Maritime Radio for vessels in the area to assist.
“The vessel Mearsk Lanco (approximately 500 kilometres away) immediately responded to the MAYDAY broadcast but was thanked for the response and stood down by the MRCC as a sister vessel to the Teng Ming Yang #268 was already diverting and a second vessel was also on route.
“Constant monitoring of the AIS system indicated that the sister vessel arrived in the area just after 0900 local time. This was confirmed by Taipei RCC minutes later when they reported that Teng Ming Yang #888 reported that it had rescued the 16 crew from the life raft. The vessel was reportedly still burning and sinking slowly. A Navigational warning has been issued.
“SAR systems and RCC cooperation has yet again proven its value,” said the centre in a statement.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has confirmed launching an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the capsizing of a KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board boat and in which two people reportedly died, while a third was still missing in Richards Bay early on Wednesday.
According to SAMSA, the tragic incident involving a total of five (5) employees of the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, reportedly occurred shortly after 06h00 at the port of the Richards Bay.
The skipper of the boat – described as a 6.6-meter shark-meshing type vessel, named “Typus III” – was said to have been one of those who fatally lost their lives. He reportedly had more than 18 years of experience as a skipper.
According to the SAMSA report, the incident occurred while the boat crew were conducting shark net inspections and replacements along the Alkantstrand beach in Richards Ba= when strong waves hit the vessel and it capsized.
SAMSA Principal Officer for the agency’s Richards Bay office, Captain Winston Lobo said: “This morning at about 06h45 the Sharks Board owned boat “Typus III” with five (5) people on board, capsized whilst carrying out shark netting operations.
“NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) was activated and two (2) persons were recovered and are currently in a stable condition in hospital. Tragically, two (2) others are deceased and one (1) is still missing.”
According to Captain Lobo, the rescue operation of the boat crew and sea search for the missing employee – conducted jointly between the SAMSA’s Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC), Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) port control in Richards Bay as well as NSRI and SAPS divers – continued for the better part of the day on the Wednesday.
In addition, he said, SAMSA officials along with South African Police Services (SAPS) members had been working closely since early in the day to establish the circumstances of the tragic incident.
Captain Lobo reported that the search for the missing person, which also involved a TNPA helicopter in and around the Alkantstrand beach, had been called off after several hours of searching.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) in Cape Town had to spring into fast action early on Wednesday after two crew members of a bulk carrier departing from South Africa for Brunei reportedly suffered serious injuries while sailing through choppy waters on the Indian Ocean.
Working in collaboration with a number of local institutions as well as a medical doctor in the Eastern Cape, the MRCC dispatched a South African Air Force aircraft from Port Elizabeth to pluck the injured crew members from the bulk carrier for medical attention in East London.
In a statement, the MRCC said the rescue scramble occurred early on Wednesday after the bulk carrier, KS Flora, sailing from the deep water port of Ngqurha in Port Elizabeth and while approximately 81 kilometers south west of East London, on its way to the Maura Port in Brunei, sent and emergency call for assistance with two injured crew members
“Today at 0934 SAST MRCC Cape Town received a call from RSC East London advising of two injured crew members on-board Bulk Carrier ‘KS FLORA’ approximately 81 kilometres from East London. The vessel had left Algoa Bay (Ngqura) bound for Muara Port in Brunei. The two crew got injured due to vessel experiencing bad weather. One crew suffered severe left knee injury and the other suffered severe fracture left foot.
“MRCC then requested our coastal radio station (PORT ELIZABETH Radio) to connect the vessel to the METRO doctor for him to make a medical judgment on the condition of the two crew.
“The Metro doctor advised that one of the crew should be evacuated as soon as possible and he suggested air evacuation due to the urgency in the casualty requiring treatment. The vessel was diverting to East London as it was the closest port from their position.” said the MRCC.
A South African Air Force aircraft dispatched from Port Elizabeth rendezvoused with the vessel during the day approximately 36 kilometres from shore, for evacuation of the injured crew members and who have since been admitted to a hospital in East London.
The MRCC confirmed that the bulk carrier had since returned onto its journey to Brunei.
To learn more about the role of the SAMSA MRCC, please click here:
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has expressed sadness at the confirmed death of a South African seafarer, Mr Stephen John Bouch of Johannesburg on board a Maersk Line cargo vessel that caught ablaze in the Arabian Sea near Oman a week ago.
Mr Bouch, 53, a veteran seafarer was believed to be among four missing crew members of the Maersk Honam cargo vessel that caught alight on Tuesday last week while en route from Singapore to the Suez in Egypt.
At the time of the incident, the vessel had 27 crew on board of which 23 were evacuated. One crew member, a Thai national, had passed away due to injuries sustained while four others remained missing until on Monday after three of the bodies were found, Maersk Line reported.
According to the shipping company’s statement, the three bodies found had not yet been identified and the search for the fourth person, now presumed dead, was continuing.
It was not clear on Tuesday whether the South African seafarer, Mr Bouch was among those whose bodies had been found, since no identity had been established of any of the bodies.
In Pretoria on Tuesday, SAMSA which had been in touch with all relevant authorities as well as the affected family since reports of the incident last week, expressed sadness at the turn of events involving the death of Mr Bouch and the other sailors.
In a statement SAMSA said: “The South African Maritime Safety Authority joins the South African maritime fraternity in mourning the loss of seafarers on board the Maersk Honam.
“South Africa has lost Mr Stephen John Bouch, of Johannesburg. Our condolences goes to his family, colleagues and fellow seafarers.”
According to SAMSA, Mr Bouch was a qualified and experienced Marine Engineer with seafarer certificates inclusive of a Certificate of Competency as an Officer in Charge of Engineering Watch or Designated Duty Engineer for which he Qualified 24 June 1991.
He had been an employee of Safmarine, later becoming part of Maersk, for the most part of his life.
SAMSA said during his time with Safmarine (Maersk), he worked and mentored many other young South African officers.
A South African seafarer has been confirmed dead along with three other crew members of a Maersk Line ship container that caught on fire in the Arabian Sea a week ago.
According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the name of the South African seafarer is Mr Stephen Bouch, a marine engineer from Johannesburg.
On Monday, Maersk Line, owners and operators of the container ship named Maersk Honam that caught on fire at sea some 900 km south of Oman while sailing from Singapore to the Suez last Tuesday, confirmed that three bodies of the four crew members who had been lost inside the vessel during an evacuation, were found in the vessel.
A fourth crew member of the container ship had not yet been found, but was also presumed dead, said Maersk Line Chief Operating Officer, Søren Toft.
It was not clear if Mr Bouch was among the three bodies found or might be the one whose body is still missing.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce that the human remains of three of the four missing crew members after the fire aboard Maersk Honam have been found on board the vessel. At this point in time our three colleagues are unidentified,” said Mr Toft
He said: “Given the time passed and the severe fire damages of the vessel we must conclude by now that we have lost all four colleagues who have been missing since the fire onboard Maersk Honam which began on 6 March. All four families of our deceased colleagues have been informed.
“Our most heartfelt condolences go out to families of our deceased colleagues. We share their sorrow and do our outmost to support them in this devastating time,” said Mr Toft in the statement.
A thorough search on board the Maersk Honam would continue, said Mr Toft adding that active search and rescue mission at sea would however be terminated.
A week ago, the company had confirmed that among the four crew members missing was a South African seafarer. The four were among a crew of 27 manning the vessel during its voyage when the massive blaze broke out of a cargo hold.
The 27 crew members were mostly from India (13), the Phillipines (9), Romania (1), South Africa (1), Thailand (2) and the United Kingdom (1).
Twenty three of the seafarers were successfully evacuated a while after the ship caught fire after it had become clear they could not contain the blaze themselves and called for assistance.
One of the 23 evacuated sailors, a Thai national, was reported eventually to have succumbed to his injuries last week while the rest of the crew was transferred to hospitals in India for treatment.
SAMSA which on behalf of South Africa, has declared itself a “substantially interested party” in the matter, said it would maintain contact with all relevant authorities while investigation of the incident continue.
These include the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) of the Singapore Transport Ministry which confirmed the launch of an investigation a week ago. The Maersk Line vessel built a year ago with a nominal capacity of 15 262 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit), is registered in Singapore.
Now also confirmed to be involved in the investigation is the India Marine Police, said Maersk Line on Monday.
The shipping company said in terms of the rest of the surviving crew of the Maersk Honam , all were recovering well and some had already been released from hospital.
“On land, the medical conditions of the evacuated crew members are progressing positively. All 22 have received medical treatment and the majority have been released from hospitals. Colleagues who initially received intensive care have been moved to a general ward and are recovering well. A crisis psychologist has been made available to all crew.
“Our colleagues that were evacuated to local hospitals in varying conditions of health are improving and we are now preparing to bring them back to their families as their condition allows,” said Mr Palle Laursen, Chief Technical Officer for Maersk Line.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says it has noted reports concerning an outbreak of a fire on board a Maersk owned cargo vessel, the Maersk Honam, off the Arabian Sea in the Middle East and in which incident a South African seafarer is confirmed to be involved.
In a brief statement on Thursday, SAMSA said reports of the incident indicated that a South African seafarer who was part of the vessel’s crew was among those reported to have gone missing during an evacuation. At least one of the missing was reported dead.
“SAMSA is aware of the situation and is in contact with the company (Maersk) regarding the incident,” the agency said.
According to the shipping company in a media statement released on Thursday , one of its vessels, the Maersk Honam with 27 crew members on board, reported a serious fire in one of its cargo holds.
The fire reportedly broke out on the vessel on Tuesday while it was sailing from Singapore towards the Suez, in an ocean area approximately 900 nautical miles southeast of Salalah in Oman.
The 27 crew on board consisted of 13 seafarers from India, the Phillipines (9), Romania (1), South Africa (1), Thailand (2) and the United Kingdom (1).
At the time of the incident the Singapore registered vessel built only last year (2017) with a nominal capacity of 15 262 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit), was carrying 7 860 containers.
According to Maersk after initial efforts by the crew to put out the fire and failed, the crew called for assistance and were soon evacuated with the assistance of another vessel nearby, the ALS Ceres. However, four of the 23 crew members were reportedly missing and efforts were continuing to try and find them from the burning vessel.
A.P Moller-Maersk Chief Operating Officer and Member of the Executive Board, Mr Søren Toft said: “After being unsuccessful in their firefighting efforts, the crew sent out a distress signal and a total of 23 crew members were safely evacuated to the nearby vessel ALS Ceres, which arrived at the scene around 18:30 GMT (on Tuesday).
As of Thursday, Mr Toft said the 22 crew members rescued were on their way to Sri Lanka on board the vessel ALS Ceres. According to Mr Toft, the cause of the fire was currently unknown.
“Regrettably,” he said: “four crew members remain missing and one was reported dead.
“We’ve received the news of Maersk Honam and the four missing crew members with the deepest regret and are now doing our outmost to continue the ongoing search and rescue operations. This by rerouting our own vessels, with assistance of vessels in the area – most notably ALS Ceres that thankfully acted promptly upon our distress call – and the local authorities.”
Mr Toren added that a search and rescue mission was ongoing and that the container vessels MSC Lauren, Edith Mærsk and Gerd Mærsk – all in vicinity – had diverted their routes and were approaching the area with expected arrivals in the early morning on Wednesday.
He reported weather conditions in the area as having been currently fair.
“Maersk Line is in the process of informing the relatives of all crew members and acknowledge this is a very difficult time for them. The evacuated crew is obviously distressed, with two crew members currently receiving medical first aid onboard the ALS Ceres. We will offer crisis counselling for the seafarers signing-off and returning to their families and our thoughts and deepest empathy go out to the families of the crew members that are still unaccounted for. We will offer them all the support we can in this very difficult situation,” said MrToft.
According to Mr Toft, Maersk Line will investigate the matter thoroughly in cooperation with all relevant authorities.