Drama as ship flounders off the South Coast

Jan 2, 2003
Author: P&S

The KwaZulu Natal South Coast was the setting for high drama on New Year's Eve as the Brazilian oil and dry bulk/oil tanker (OBO) Inville came within a whisker of going aground after losing all engine power.
The 1975-built 131,232DWT ship, assumed to be the former Joinville, was on a final voyage to the breakers when she lost all power. As a southeasterly wind of 20 knots blew the ship towards the shore opposite the village of Bazley on the KwaZulu Natal South Coast, which is about 80km south of Durban, frantic efforts were made to put down anchors and prevent the ship from going ashore.

It is not clear how the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) became aware of the drama but they took immediate action by dispatching the Smit salvage tug Wolraad Woltemade to the scene to take the stricken Brazilian vessel under tow. This was achieved sometime during New Year's Day with the Brazilian ship at anchor not far outside the surf line.
Inville is carrying an estimated 800 tonnes of heavy bunker fuel, which would have created an ecological disaster along some of the country's favourite holiday beaches in the midst of the peak holiday season.

According to a SAMSA spokesman the ship took more than two and a half months to reach South Africa from Brazil - normally an 18-day voyage, which they said indicated considerable trouble along the way. The vessel was apparently laid up prior to her final voyage.

He told Ports and Ships that a surveyor as well as armed police had been put on board the ship, which had entered South African territorial waters without any notification. "The Russian crew had been less than honest with us since contact was established," he said.

By Thursday morning both tug and ship were in a holding position about 20 n.miles off Durban awaiting instructions. Durban port officials subsequently refused permission to enter port on account that Inville is too wide for the port entrance (45m) and had no power. Had the ship the use of her engines she would have been granted permission to enter with the assistance of four tugs.

Instead a request has been made to Richards Bay port authorities for permission to proceed to that port to take on board heavy generator equipment to help restore power. The equipment weighing 7.5 tonnes is said to be too heavy for any local helicopter service.

The port of Richards Bay at this time is very busy and port officials are probably not too keen to permit a ship like Inville to remain on berth for long, however there appears to be no other alternative.

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