Cape Africa threat removed

May 14, 2004
Author: P&S

The threat of oil pollution along the South African coast has been lifted with the transhipment of the final 900 tonnes of fuel oil from the crippled bulker Cape Africa. The oil was transferred to the salvage tug Nikolay Chiker earlier today (Friday, 14 May).

With its removal the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has lifted restrictions that prevented the 146,533-dwt Taiwanese bulker from approaching the coastline. In consultation with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, permission has been granted for the ship to be towed stern first into False Bay, where permanent repairs will be undertaken.

The repair will be effected with a steel cofferdam that is being fabricated and supplied from Durban. The extent of the hole on the port side opposite No.3 hold is estimated at 20m x 5m which will make for the largest cofferdam repair undertaken in South Africa – the cofferdam measuring 26m x 11m x 1.5m.

It is understood that the Saldanha Bay port authorities had expressed concerns that there was not sufficient draft at the port, leading to the decision to make use of False Bay, which provides less shelter but is a less environmentally sensitive area.

In a communiqué issued today the Joint Response Committee said: “It is appreciated by all parties concerned that False Bay is an environmentally sensitive area and that it merits taking various additional environmental precautions that will not normally be undertaken by other countries, such as removal of all oils and sealing off fuel tanks offshore. In consultation with various environmental organizations, a variety of precautionary measures will be put in place prior to the arrival of the Cape Africa in False Bay. This includes anti-pollution measures along the coastline, the continued presence of the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism's oil pollution abatement vessel - Kuswag IV - and regular overflights by the patrol aircraft Kuswag VIII, ongoing consultation with and observation by marine biologists and other such professionals, as well as any such short term measures considered prudent by environmentalists.”

In response to public concerns over the undertaking, a website will become active by 12.00 noon on Monday (17 May) which will act as an information source for residents of Simon’s Town and members of the public. The site will provide information on the ship, the repair methodology, pictures and press releases in addition to contact details of the Joint Response Committee. Visitors to the site may also voice their concerns by email directly with the Joint Response Committee.

The web address is

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