Two to three more weeks to clear problematic chemical cargo off vessel in South Africa’s west coast: SAMSA

The NS Qingdao pictured after anchoring at the port of Saldanha on the Atlantic Ocean seaboard a few weeks ago. (Photo: Supplied)

Pretoria: 07 March 2022

It may be another two to three more weeks before troublesome chemical cargo is fully offloaded from the NS Qingdao vessel, currently docked at the port of Saldanha on South Africa west coast, said the South African Maritime Safety Authority late Friday.

This would be about six months since the Marshal Islands registered commercial cargo vessel first set anchor at the country’s ports only to prove a major headache after its cargo of a chemical product reacted to rain water at its first attempt to offload in Durban last October, thereby setting in motion one of the most intense, delicate and time consuming unstable cargo containment exercises ever undertaken by authorities in recent times.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, SAMSA confirmed the vessel was still at anchor in Saldanha Bay for the continued discharge of its waste cargo.

“The vessel will be alongside a berth again on or about Sunday 6th March to continue operations. Operations are proceeding in a safe and well-coordinated manner and good progress has been made,” said SAMSA

The agency added that: “As of the 1st  of March 2022, approximately half of the cargo in cargo hold No.3 had been discharged and disposed at Vissershok High Hazardous Waste Management Site. Wastewater will also be pumped into tanks and sent for disposal at the same waste management site.

“It is anticipated that once the vessel is alongside a berth that it would take approximate 2 to 3 weeks to discharge the remaining waste cargo from the ship and dispose it at Vissershok. The vessel will then be inspected by SAMSA and its classification society to ensure she is safe to continue her voyage to Brazil to discharge remaining cargo onboard.

According to SAMSA, the agency and the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DFFE) have reached agreement with the vessel’s owners and P&I Club “to implement a medium to long term environmental monitoring program so that any potential immediate and future impacts can be assessed and mitigated. 

“The P&I Club’s appointed environmental specialists in collaboration with DFFE are continuously monitoring the coast and sea area to determine any threats to the marine environment resulting from the emergency disposal of cargo dumped approximately 250 km offshore. To date, satellite imaging shows no immediate indications of harmful effects to the receiving environment or marine life.

“The Marshall Islands Flag State Investigation team have (also) started their investigation and it is expected to continue over the next few months until the root cause can be established. As part of the co-operation agreement, SAMSA is sharing the available information with the vessels flag. It is expected that the detailed investigation will take an estimated 12 months to complete and that the final report will be shared with SAMSA,”said SAMSA

The agency also expressed its gratitude to all people it has worked closely with to date in managing the vessel.

“SAMSA would like to thank the salvage team onboard, who at great peril to themselves, said SAMSA, “risked everything to successfully bring this emergency situation under control where normal cargo operations could continue. The support from all the person involved in managing this emergency since it started in Durban in October 2021 has been very good, despite the difficult choices that had to be made over the last 6 months by the Authorities.

“The vessel owner continues to co-operate with all authorities and have covered all expenses to date regarding this salvage operation,” said SAMSA.

End