Sealand Express saga continues

Sep 5, 2003
Author: P&S

Eighteen days after the Maersk Sealand container ship Sealand Express went aground opposite Sunset Beach in Table Bay, the ship remains as firmly stuck as ever with salvors focusing much of their attention on removing 33 containers of hazardous cargo by helicopter to a secure place in nearby Cape Town harbour.

The removal of the cargo is restricted to opening containers and handling the contents in small parcels, because the largest helicopter available, a Mi8 can lift only 5 tonnes at a time. This work is subject to the vagaries of weather and safety conditions and as a result has been a stop/start operation, and by this morning only six containers had been fully cleared of their hazardous cargo.

A full Hazmat team, comprised of technician, chemist and paramedic, is flown to the casualty daily to co-ordinate hazardous cargo removal in conjunction with the salvage team.

The next attempt to pull the 257m, 32 926-dwt ship into deep water will take place during the following spring high tide which is due on 11 September.

Meanwhile the dredger Ham 316 is continuing to remove sand from the channel on the side of the vessel facing the open sea into which Sealand Express will hopefully make her escape.

Stress monitors placed on the shipís hull indicate that the shipís overall condition remains sound and the level of stresses is constantly reducing as the ship settles into her new position. This is after the ship was pulled forward about 180 metres and pivoted 27 degrees towards the open sea earlier this week.

Smit Marine, which has a Lloyds Open Form contract to salvage the vessel says the stresses being experienced by the ship are above normal but within the acceptable range, given the grounding forces that the fully laden ship is experiencing.

Sealand Express went aground on the morning of 19 August after dragging her anchor in Table Bay during a severe but typical Cape winter storm. The ship was waiting to enter Cape Town port after arriving from Durban and Port Elizabeth and was en route to the United States.

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