BBC China takes on water

Oct 18, 2004
Author: P&S

Hopes are fading of refloating the German freighter BBC China following reports that much of the ship is now flooded. The 122m long 5,548-gt general cargo vessel ran aground near Port Grosvenor on Saturday night while en route to Durban for a rudder survey and bunkers.

The ship is believed to be carrying a small cargo of steel products. Salvage efforts have turned towards removing all hazardous material, mainly remaining fuel on board.

BBC China grounded on a sandbank some 150m from the beach shortly before 21.00 on Saturday night (16 October 2004). Soon afterwards water entered the engine room compartment, followed by a call from the ship for the crew to be taken off. This was accomplished despite the dark windy conditions and thanks to a helicopter from Richards Bay, which ferried all 16 crew safely to the nearby beach, from where a bus took them to Durban later on Sunday.

During the drama the South African Navy hydrographic survey vessel SAS Protea stood by but was unable to approach closer than 5 miles because of the swells and wind conditions. Nevertheless the navy ship proved invaluable as a communication link between the rescue helicopter, those on the ground and the BBC China.

Small amounts of oil have leaked from the ship’s bilges and the oil abatement vessel Kuswag I is on standby to help dissipate any pollution.

N.B: The term Port Grosvenor, as with Port St Johns, is a misnomer, both places having lost their status as harbours or ports more than one hundred years ago. Port St Johns remains as a small and picturesque seaside town while Port Grosvenor is little more than a place on the map.

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