Cape Africa remains afloat as hopes of salvage rise

Apr 30, 2004
Author: P&S

THE CRIPPLED Capesize bulker Cape Africa (149,533-dwt) remained afloat and under tow this afternoon approximately 130 nautical miles west of Cape Town, with the salvage tug Smit Amandla holding the vessel tight just beyond the 4000m depth contour, as per instructions from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

Late yesterday evening Smit Salvage was appointed as salvors by the owners, U-Ming Marine of Taipei. Earlier the crew of 18 were taken off the ship and in accordance with SAMSA’s requirements focus has turned to removing the approximately 1,800 tons of fuel oil on board the vessel.

picture courtesy SMIT Salvage

SAMSA will not allow the ship to approach the South African coastline until all oils except for the umpumpables have been removed. Only then will a decision be taken as to where to take the ship for repairs, although Saldanha Bay, which is nearby, seems the likely location.

It is understood that the ship has suffered the loss of about 20m of side shell plating from one side to a width of 2.4m and about 2m below the waterline. A similar length of side shell plating on the opposite side is reported to be badly buckled and will require replacing once the ship reaches a place of safety.

Although Cape Africa settled deeper in the water on 28 April the position has now apparently stabilised since the arrival and taking in tow by the Smit Amandla salvage tug.

The SA department of environmental affairs has dispatched the oil pollution dispersal vessel Kuswag IV to the scene where she will remain on standby in case there is an oil spill. Kuswag IV carries a range of chemical dispersant agents for containing oil spills. The department said today that although the bulker is carrying a large cargo of iron ore this is not considered a threat to the environment, as iron ore is largely inert.

“The primary environmental concern is the threat of oil pollution,” said Carol Moses, the department spokesperson.

She said the department’s anti-pollution aircraft Kuswag VIII is also being actively engaged and will monitor the situation closely.

“Further protective measures implemented by the department to reduce environmental damage include the mobilisation of organisations such as SANCOB, coastal clean-up teams along the coast, oil spill response equipment for deployment along the coast and a full-time departmental response team.”

Cape Africa is classed as an A1, Bulk Carrier and carries dual ABS (American Bureau of Shipping) and China Corporation Register of Shipping classification. The ABS website says an ABS surveyor has been requested to stand by to attend the ship at the first opportunity. The ship is reported as complying with the new stricter side shell strength rules even though IACS URS31 compliance is not required until July 2006.

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