Today’s the day of reckoning for Sealand Express

Sep 12, 2003
Author: P&S

Salvors are busy putting final arrangements in place for this afternoon’s big pull aimed at getting the grounded container ship Sealand Express clear of the beach in Table Bay.

The effort will take place at high tide later today, which is also a spring tide and when a strong swell is anticipated. The three tugs connected to the grounded ship yesterday afternoon, John Ross, Pacific Brigand and Pacific Worker, managed by their combined effort to pivot the stranded vessel a further 19 degrees facing seawards.

This morning the dredger Ham 316 is back on the scene and will commence dredging in the area directly alongside the casualty in preparation for this afternoon’s high tide refloating attempt. In the interim the salvage team in charge of the attempt, Smit Salvage South Africa hopes to pivot the ship further seawards before pulling her off her position into deep water, using the high tide and strong swell.

Removal of the hazardous cargo was suspended on Wednesday when the ship became ‘lively’ on the afternoon high tide. The contents of 12 of the 33 containers of hazardous cargo have been airlifted from the ship and other containers are being re-secured today in anticipation of the ‘big pull’. Further removal of this cargo by Mi8 helicopter has been discontinued until the outcome of the refloating attempt is known.

Other ships at anchor nearby have been asked to move by the National Ports Authority so as not to impede salvage operations and the SA Police Water Wing has taken up patrols aimed at keeping small craft and sightseers safely away.

Provided the ship is pulled clear Sealand Express will be towed west of Robben Island where the towing connections will be reconfigured and various inspections undertaken. Only later will the ship be allowed to enter the port of Cape Town.

Smit Salvage South Africa was awarded a Lloyds Open Form salvage contract with respect to the grounded container ship. The 32,926-dwt vessel, which was built in 1980, ran aground at 06.55, 200 metres off Sunset Beach, north of the port of Cape Town on Tuesday 19 August. At the time there were severe weather and wave conditions of a typical Cape winter storm. The ship was en route from Durban and Port Elizabeth for Cape Town and the United States with a cargo of 1037 containers.

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