Sealand Express salvage continues

Aug 25, 2003
Author: P&S

Hazardous cargo on board the stranded container ship Sealand Express is to be removed on Wednesday using a helicopter specially flown to South Africa. The Maersk Sealand ship went aground after dragging her anchor in Table Bay last Tuesday (19 August).

According to reports preliminary inquiries into the grounding by the SA Maritime Safety Authority have confirmed earlier claims that Cape Town Port Control warned the American ship by radio that it was dragging its anchor and was in danger, but was advised that everything was ‘under control.’ Port Control issued three warnings from about 04.00 before the ship went aground between 06.00 and 07.00.

Cargo considered as posing the least risk is to be removed from the ship in small parcels, using the 5-tonne payload Mi8 helicopter. The operation will be under the watchful eye of a Hazmat technician with a Hazmat paramedic onboard at all times, says Smit Pentow, whose salvage team gained valuable experience a year ago in similar conditions off the KwaZulu Natal coast when they removed hazardous cargo from the burning and grounded Ro-Ro vessel Jolly Rubino.

Cargo considered to pose the most risk will remain on board where it is being constantly monitored by an on-board chemist. So far about 1,500 tonnes of the 3,700 tonnes of fuel oil have been removed from the ships tanks, including those tanks likely to be at the most risk if the ship breaks up. The remaining oil is located in higher lying portside tanks and on the starboard side of the ship. The salvage team hopes to recommence removing this oil as soon as the weather and sea condition permits, but today a high swell was running.

Smit Pentow says the main objective remains the refloating of the ship and intends attempting this at the next high spring tide, which is due at the end of the week. A dredger, Ham 316, which can operate in a minimum water depth of 5 metres, and can move approximately 9,000 tonnes of sand an hour in favourable weather, has been taken on hire to assist and is expected to return to Cape Town within the next 24 hours. The dredger will attempt to remove the sand bar that has built up around the port shoulder of Sealand Express.

The first phase of refloating the ship will be to pivot Sealand Express on its stern and as close to an offshore heading as possible. The second phase will involve direct attempts to pull her off her position in the sand and out into the bay.

Meanwhile the South African Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism (DEAT) says it is satisfied with preliminary plans to remove the hazardous cargo from the ship and to ensure the safety of the public and protection of the environment. The deputy minister, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi visited the scene today and said she was pleased with the cooperation of the public who have heeded calls to stay clear of the area while the operation is in progress.

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