Massive hole in side of Cape Africa

May 3, 2004
Author: P&S

The stricken Taiwanese bulk ship Cape Africa (149,533-dwt), in danger of sinking off the Cape coast, has a hole in the port side that is more than twice the size it was at first thought.

This became clear after surveyors undertook an inspection of the ship at the weekend, which revealed the hole in the port side of the vessel is actually 23m long by 7.2m wide, which poses an even greater risk to the safety of the vessel.

Earlier today the salvors appointed to clear the vessel of all fuel oils (1900 tonnes) and to salvage the vessel if possible, Smit Salvage of Cape Town, reported the ship to be in a stable condition. The ship is currently under tow by the salvage tug Smit Amandla approximately 160 miles west of Cape Town, South Africa.

“Smit Salvage intends to transfer the fuel to a receiving vessel in 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.

“Of paramount importance in this salvage operation is the safety of salvage personnel and the protection of the marine environment. A salvage team, including a naval architect, was flown to the casualty on Sunday to conduct structural and stability surveys, the outcome of which will be used to determine optimally safe working conditions for salvage personnel during the fuel transfer operation.”

Smit Salvage revealed that the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism’s Antarctic supply vessel SA Agulhas has been chartered and will be used as a logistics base at the scene during the operation for both salvage personnel and equipment.

SA Agulhas is also able to support helicopter operations and the bunker fuel pumped from the Cape Africa will be transferred to the supply ship’s fuel tanks for temporary storage.

“The SA Agulhas is en route to Cape Town from Marion Island and is expected to arrive on Wednesday, at which time the necessary equipment will be loaded onto her. It is anticipated that she will be on the scene by the end of the week. The salvage tug Smit Amandla remains connected up to the Cape Africa. The Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism’s oil pollution abatement vessel Kuswag IV remains on the scene.”

The South African Maritime Safety Authority has ordered that the bulk carrier remains at least 120 miles off of Cape Town until such time as all bunker fuel has been transferred. 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.

Cape Africa is owned by U-Ming Marine Transportation Corporation and was built in 1991. The ship 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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