Weather delays Cape Africa repair

May 29, 2004
Author: P&S

Poor weather conditions along the Cape coast has delayed the fitting of a cofferdam to the crippled Taiwanese bulker, Cape Africa (19,533-dwt), which is at anchor in False Bay near Simonís Town.

A 26m x 11m x 1.5m steel cofferdam, which is being manufactured and fitted by Durban-based Dormac Ship Repair, has been fabricated and is on board the barge Niord in the Simonís Town Dockyards, awaiting an improvement in the weather, says a Smit Salvage spokesperson. Calm conditions are necessary before the cofferdam can be safely fitted alongside the damaged hull.

The complexity of the job, which involves stringent precautions against any form of pollution in the eco-sensitive False Bay, has resulted in a request to members of the public to remain at least 1.5km from the site at all times during the fitting of the cofferdam.

The cofferdam weighs 65 tonnes, about the same weight of a Boeing 737 passenger aircraft and involves wires, cables and other vessels to be in the area during the operation. The divers operating in the water around the bulk ship are also concerned about the presence of small craft and their propellers while they (the divers) are in the water.

Contingency plans are in place for all river estuaries and for Seal Island and the Boulders Penguin Colony in False Bay. The oil abatement vessel Kuswag IV has remained on the scene and overflights by a coastal patrol aircraft will continue on a regular basis. In addition the salvage tug Smit Amandla remains in the vicinity of Cape Africa as does the Antarctic supply ship SA Agulhas, which is being used as a base for salvage personnel.

Cape Africa was on a voyage from Brazil to the Far East when the crew reported that a section of side shell plating had ripped off the vessel on the port side, opposite hold No. 3. The vessel with a cargo of iron ore was towed into False Bay once all fuel oil had been removed.

The bulker is owned by U-Ming Marine Transportation of Taipei and was built in 1991. The crew and master were flown to safety on Wednesday, 28 April, shortly after the arrival of the salvage tug Smit Amandla.

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