Work starts today on repairing Cape Africa

May 26, 2004
Author: P&S

The repair of the crippled bulk ship Cape Africa is due to commence today with the fitting of a giant cofferdam fabricated and assembled by Durban ship repair company Dormac Ship Repair.

The repair to the 146 533-gt Taiwanese ship is being carried out in False Bay about 3km from Simon’s Town. The repair became necessary after the crew of the aptly named Cape Africa, then one third into a voyage from the Brazilian port of Ponta da Madeira and bound for the Far East with a cargo of iron ore, ‘sensed’ something was amiss.

Close inspection revealed a gaping hope below the waterline on the port side of the ship, which was later measured at more than 20m in length and about 5m wide. Subsequent inspections have revealed additional stress to the frames in adjacent holds and there are concerns that the plating and frames on the starboard side of hold No. 3 may also be damaged.

The cause of the damage has not yet been ascertained but corrosion and heavy seas are thought to have contributed.

The cofferdam necessary to undertake this repair – there are no dry docks in South Africa capable of handling capesize vessels – is a massive 26m x 11m x 1.5m. This is being fitted alongside the ship’s hull and lowered into position to create a dry habitat in which the repair crew can operate.

Prior to being towed into False Bay all fuel oils on board – about 1900 tonnes - were transhipped onto the salvage tug Nikolay Chiker and taken to Cape Town. Fortunately the weather remained fair throughout the operation, and once completed the Smit Dudula salvage tug Smit Amandla took Cape Africa under tow into False Bay.

This particular cofferdam contract is the second large contract awarded to Dormac this year. In March another bulker also with a cargo of iron ore, the 156 000-dwt Singapore-registered CSK Tribute, was towed by Nikolay Chiker into Nacala Bay in northern Mozambique with similar side plate damage. Within the sheltered waters of the bay a large cofferdam was fitted and successful repairs were completed.

The alternative facing the owner was to have the cargo of about 150 000 tons of iron ore transhipped onto another ship, at great expense, before the vessel could be towed several thousand miles to a suitable dry dock, also at considerable expense.

Instead the cofferdam repair to CSK Tribute was completed within weeks and the ship was able to complete her journey, still with her cargo on board.

For updates of the ship repair in False Bay go to - for further information about cofferdam repairs go to

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