Cape Africa salvor says safety of personnel is paramount

May 7, 2004
Author: Smit Salvage

A Smit chartered salvage tug carrying all equipment required for the Cape Africa fuel transfer operation rendezvoused with the bulk carrier and the salvage tug Smit Amandla some 160 miles west of Cape Town during the night.

At first light this morning, Smit Salvage personnel began transferring the approximately 30 tonnes of equipment required for this operation to the Cape Africa and preparing to connect up in order that the fuel transfer operation can begin during the hours of daylight today or tomorrow, weather permitting.

A helicopter flew out to the location at first light this morning in order to assist in moving the equipment from the tug to the Cape Africa.

In order to maximise the safety of salvage personnel working on the Cape Africa, only essential personnel will work on the casualty 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.

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 salvage tug Nikolay Chiker will be able to receive approximately 1,000 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 is being prepared for her role in the fuel removal operation and will depart for the scene this evening.

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 safety of salvage personnel and the protection of the marine environment remain of paramount importance in this salvage operation.

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 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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