Kiperousa salvage fails

Jun 10, 2005
Author: Ian Hunter & P&S

Efforts to haul the bulker Kiperousa from a reef on the Eastern Cape coast failed yesterday afternoon (Thursday). Kiperousa, with a cargo of logs loaded in Gabon, West Africa, struck an unknown object believed to be a reef on Tuesday, 7 June, while sailing close inshore in a north-easterly direction on a heading for Durban. The ship was sailing close inshore at the time.

The vessel sustained damage to its bottom hull and subsequently took water in the engine room and without power drifted onto a reef opposite Bhega near the coastal village of Hamburg, southwest of East London.

At yesterday’s high tide in the late afternoon the Tsavliris salvage tug Nicolay Chiker, which had arrived earlier from Cape Town, made an attempt to pull the ship clear into deep water, but without success.

A second attempt was likely later today, and if that fails salvors may be forced to lighten the vessel by throwing logs overboard. This may create a navigation hazard but authorities seem confident the logs would be carried ashore by wave action (see Ian Hunter’s report below).

The ship also has about 27 tons of fuel oil on board and was scheduled to call at Durban to load bunkers so removing the fuel oil is unlikely to make much difference in efforts to lighten the ship. While the small amount of fuel on board doesn’t pose a large environmental risk, authorities on land have nevertheless introduced contingency plans and are ready to place booms across river estuaries along the coast and prevent pollution damage from escaping oil.

Weather Prognosis for the Refloating of the stranded Kiperousa

By Ian Hunter – SA Weather Services - 10 June 2005

There are a number of reefs extending seawards from the coast south of East London. On Tuesday 7 June 2005, the 25 375 ton deadweight log-carrier Kiperousa ran aground near Keiskamma Point. She was headed for Durban to take on bunkers, staying close inshore so as to avoid the south-flowing Agulhas Current.

The vessel has had to endure some heavy weather since grounding. The majority of cold fronts passing over the Cape at this time of year subsequently swing south-eastwards and do not affect the east coast directly. However a coastal low brought a south-westerly buster in its rear early on Wednesday morning, with winds gusting over 40 kts on the coast. Then the cold front associated with this coastal low caused a resurgence of the south-wester in the afternoon with gusts again going over 40 kts.

A second cold front brushed the east coast yesterday afternoon (9 June). A voluntary observing ship, the P&O Nedlloyd Chusan reported south-westerly winds averaging 40 kts from a position north-east of East London. Average wave height was estimated at over 6m.

Conditions have improved considerably at the salvage site today. However, as a prognosis from the US Weather Service's GFS model shows, a very significant development is predicted on Monday night (13 June) - to the south-west of Cape Town. This low pressure system intensifies very rapidly, bringing a tight south-westerly fetch behind it. Strong south-westerly winds should have already reached the area on Monday afternoon but the real problem for the ship and the salvors (if she is not already refloated by then) - is predicted to come with the very heavy south-westerly swell later on Tuesday.

Let us hope that the salvors are successful while the good weather lasts.

Note 1 : In October 1999 a log carrier, the Sanaga sank south of Madagascar spilling her cargo of huge 20 ton logs into the ocean. These logs presented a major navigation hazard to smaller vessels as they floated down the east coast, beaching at various places between Inhambane and False Bay.

Note 2 : All the wind speeds referred to above come from sources right on the coast or offshore (voluntary observing ships). Wind recordings from weather stations even slightly inland (e.g. East London Airport) generally do not reflect the coastal situation. For example these stations will often experience a light land breeze in the early hours, even though there might be a gale blowing offshore.



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