Cape Africa - hopes of beginning transfer of oil

May 10, 2004
Author: P&S

At the first sign of a moderation in the high swell condition that prevented the SMIT Salvage team from beginning the transfer of fuel from the bulk carrier Cape Africa over the weekend, personnel began to prepare for another attempt at connecting up to the salvage tug Nikolay Chiker this morning (Monday 10 April).

The tug will receive approximately 1,000 tonnes of fuel from the tanks of the Cape Africa. It is hoped that an improvement in the swell condition, which peaked at 5 metres over the weekend, will enable the team to begin pumping as soon as conditions allow. Cape Africa is still under tow by the salvage tug Smit Amandla, approximately 160 miles west of Cape Town.

The transfer of the fuel to a receiving vessel is the first phase of the salvage operation, which is contingent on the bulk carrier’s condition remaining stable and the absence of adverse weather and swell conditions - all of which is being closely monitored. The salvage tug will be able to receive approximately 1000 tonnes of the Cape Africa’s bunker fuel during the fuel removal operation.

The SA Agulhas returned to Cape Town from Marion Island on Thursday afternoon and rendezvoused with the Nikolay Chiker on Saturday. She will receive the balance of fuel from the Cape Africa.

The safety of salvage personnel and the protection of the marine environment remain of paramount importance in this salvage operation. In order to maximise the safety of salvage personnel working on the Cape Africa, only essential personnel will work on the casualty during the fuel transfer and two teams, working alternate shifts, will be used so as to enable the operation to continue 24 hours a day, weather permitting. No members of the salvage team will live on the Cape Africa and when not required for work, they will be transferred back to the salvage tug.

A helicopter is now based on the SA Agulhas to assist in the transfer of personnel and equipment. The helicopter is also on CASEVAC standby as a precautionary measure, should any member of the team sustain an injury during the course of the salvage operation and require immediate evacuation and return to Cape Town.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority has ordered that the bulk carrier remain at least 120 miles off of Cape Town until such time as all bunker fuel has been transferred. The condition of the holed bulk carrier Cape Africa, currently under tow by salvage tug SMIT Amandla, is reported to be stable. It has been determined that the bulk carrier has a hole by way of hold No. 3 that extends approximately 20 metres by 5 metres.

The Master and crew were flown off the casualty on Wednesday 28 April as a precautionary measure after reporting extensive structural damage in hold No. 3 earlier. The 150,000-dwt bulk carrier Cape Africa is owned by U-Ming Marine Transportation Corporation and was built in 1991. It is carrying a cargo of iron ore and was en route to the Far East from Ponta da Madeira in Brazil.

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