BBC China declared a constructive total loss

Oct 29, 2004
Author: Joint Response Committee

Statement issued by Joint Response Committee

Friday 29 October 2004, 15:30

Adverse weather conditions continue to delay continuation of BBC China fuel removal operation.

High seas and strong winds are preventing the Smit Salvage team from continuing to remove the approximately 29 tonnes of heavy fuel oil still onboard the grounded BBC China and with a cold front passing tonight, this situation is unlikely to change over the weekend. Salvage personnel were able to board the BBC China this morning and are reinstating pumping equipment damaged during the bad weather. Since Monday, adverse weather conditions have made it dangerous and unsafe for salvors to progress with both the fuel removal operation as well as the continuation of the removal of cargo items. The rough seas pounding the casualty have dislodged several containers on the deck of the BBC China and washed them overboard. The salvage team will retrieve these as soon as it is possible and team members are carrying out regular patrols on the beach to check for any cargo from the containers. When
weather and sea conditions allow, the salvage team will remove the balance of the oil from the BBC China into specially designed 'seaslugs'. The 'seaslugs' (floating "bladders") are commonly used to safely store oil and are easily transportable.

The Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism's oil pollution patrol and abatement vessel - Kuswag I - remains on the scene and undertakes regular patrols in the vicinity of the casualty. The oil pollution patrol aircraft - Kuswag VIII - continues to patrol the coastline on a daily basis and yesterday reported no oil emanating from the casualty, with an offshore slick running parallel to the coast then dissipating, and no pollution on the beach visible from the aircraft. Of paramount importance during the BBC China oil removal operation is the protection of the marine environment. To this end, both proactive and reactive environmental protection measures are in place. As part of the precautionary measures put in place by the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, contingency plans remain in place for all beach and lagoon areas both north and south of the BBC China and a team is on standby to respond as required.

To date, approximately 29 tonnes of heavy fuel oil has been removed from the grounded general cargo vessel BBC China. The fuel removal operation was halted on Monday 25 October due to bad weather, which has persisted throughout the week and has prevented the salvage team from reconnecting and continuing with this operation. The removal of all oil onboard - a total of 126 tonnes including 58 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, 60 tonnes of gasoil (diesel) and 8 tonnes of lubricants remains the top priority and the salvage team will reconnect as soon as weather conditions allow. The removal of some cargo consisting of paint and lead batteries commenced on Monday 25 October when a number of helicopter loads were removed prior to the deterioration of weather conditions.

At midnight on Tuesday 26 October, the vessel's owners declared the BBC China a 'Constructive Total Loss'. It is understood by all parties that it will not be possible to refloat the BBC China and in consultation with local leaders and local authorities the relevant authorities are investigating the most effective means of reducing the casualty's impact on the environment. A decision in this regard will be made in due course.

The 5,548-gt general cargo vessel BBC China was built in 2001. It was en route to the Port of Durban from Port of Spain, with a cargo of assorted machinery, when it ran aground on 16 October at Port Grosvenor, on a notoriously rocky part of the wild coast, approximately 110 nautical miles south of Durban. The vessel's crew was safely airlifted off the vessel shortly after she ran aground.

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