Ports & Ships Maritime News

Aug 27, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Crew from tug Douala Tide plucked from wild seas

  • Visiting times for warship visit

  • The silos that didn’t want to die

  • Death of another port stalwart

  • Pic of the day – MOL STRENGTH

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    Crew of tug Douala Tide plucked from wild seas

    If you are going to be rescued at sea at least do it in style. That’s the story of ten men from the anchor handling tug Douala Tide, which sank in heavy seas about 25 n.miles from Port Alfred last week (Thursday). Unfortunately one of their fellow seafarers was not so lucky. He drowned before he could be winched on board the rescuing vessels.

    When one of the world’s most luxurious motor yachts, Octopus and an anchor handling tug named Douala Tide sailed from Durban last week none of those on board expected to see the other ship again. Octopus was bound for Cape Town, where owner Paul Allen of Microsoft fame was due to board her, while the tug was headed for her namesake port in the Cameroon.

    On Thursday (23 August) the AHT Douala Tide reported that she was sinking about 25 miles opposite the Fish River lighthouse, amid 6-8m swells and 25kt winds. The 126m Octopus was in the area and responded to the distress messages, arriving on the scene in time to pick up seven of the crew of 11 who had abandoned the sinking vessel into life rafts and rings.

    A cargo ship named Jaguar also diverted to the scene but three remaining crew members were winched from the sea by air force helicopters after a NSRI swimmer was lowered into the water to assist them. The eleventh crew member, a man aged about 60, drowned before he could be picked up.

    The Octopus is of course fitted out for luxurious travel, but it also comes well equipped for daring rescues at sea, boasting a couple of helicopters, seven smaller craft, a 10-man submarine and a number of former US Navy Seals among the security detachment on board. Altogether the yacht carries a crew of 60.

    A number of other vessels also attempted to render assistance, including the Cape Town based tug Smit Amandla while NSRI craft in Port Elizabeth and Port Alfred were readied for action. Due to the wild seas Air Force helicopters based at Port Elizabeth were unable to lift the rescued sailors from Octopus and instead the seven men continued with the yacht to Cape Town.

    However the deteriorating condition of one of those rescued on board the Octopus necessitated the NSRI rendezvousing with the yacht off Cape Recife in what crew members later described as the worst seas they had ever operated in. The sick man was successfully transferred to the rescue craft and taken to hospital in Port Elizabeth, where his condition is reported to have improved.

    An enquiry into the loss of the Douala Tide will be held under the auspices of the South African Maritime Safety Authority.

    Visiting times for warship visit

    The visiting NATO warships, due in Cape Town harbour tomorrow (28 August) will be open to the public over two days.

    The six ships of the NATO task force comprising ships from the United States, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Portugal and The Netherlands are making an historic 12,500 n.mile circumnavigation of Africa, with official visits to various ports along the way.

    The ships are:

    USS Normandy, a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser, which is the flagship of Rear Admiral Mike Mahon, Commander of SNMG1. It is not yet confirmed if the cruiser will enter Cape Town.

    HNLMS Evertsen, a stealth type Zeven Provincien class air defence and command frigate of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

    FGS Spessart, a Germany Navy Rhone class replenishment tanker, acting in support of SNMG1 throughout the deployment.

    HMCS Toronto, a Canadian Halifax class multi-role patrol frigate.

    NRP Alvaras Cabral, one of several Vasco da Gama Meko class frigates in the Portuguese Navy.

    HDMS Olfert Fischer, a Royal Danish Navy Niels Juel class corvette.

    They will berth at Jetty 2 and Quay 6 in the V&A Waterfront harbour and will be open to the public for visits on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 September, between the hours of 10am and 2pm.

    During other times the ships will not admit visitors.

    See our previous reports of the visit and circumnavigation in the Naval Review column http://ports.co.za/navalnews/articles.php and previous news bulletins.

    The silos that didn’t want to die


    The silos at Pier 1 before demolition charges reduced them to rubble yesterday. Imported malt is now stored in the silos of Ensign Logistics, the old Union Flour Mill site in Umbilo. Picture Terry Hutson

    Five concrete silos between Durban’s Pier 1 and Salisbury Island did their best to survive on Sunday (26 August), when an initial blast of explosives set by demolishers failed to bring down the 40m high structures.

    The silos, which were built by SABMiller (SA Breweries) as recently as 1990, are being removed to make way for container terminal expansion. Initially the plan was to build a new car terminal on the site of the Salisbury Island Navy camp but this was later shelved on account of costing factors. By this time however tenants including the South African Defence Force and SABMiller had been given notice to vacate.

    The military agreed to move and units of the army, which only recently moved from Natal Command in Durban to the island, transferred to the military camp on the Bluff. The South African Navy will remain on one corner of the island and the other major tenant, SABMiller arranged to have the silos, used for storing imported malt, demolished in terms of the lease.

    A Johannesburg firm of demolishers, Jet Demolition (Pty) Ltd was appointed to remove the concrete structures and in turn appointed Durban-based Blasting & Demolition Services, which has undertaken blasting operations in various parts of the world, to undertake the demolition of the site.


    After a failed first attempt, success as each silo is taken down one by one. Picture by Roy Reed Photographer

    The idea was to set charges at the base of the five silos on one side only, in order that the towers would collapse across an open piece of ground prepared for this purpose. The charges were set to go off in a sequence of half second intervals starting at 10am and all went to plan, except the building did not collapse.

    It appeared later that although the concrete base of each silo had been destroyed as intended steel foundation pieces resisted the charges and held the building intact, with nary a crack visible in the concrete above.

    Further charges were set and later in the day each silo was brought down one by one, with the final tower collapsing as darkness set in.

    Malt for the SABMiller operation is now stored at the premises of Ensign Logistics in the old Union Flour Mill site in Umbilo, Durban. This is a large 70-silo site built in the late 1920s and is a landmark building in the south of Durban.


    As twilight sets across the harbour the remaining silos are brought down, with the last one falling in darkness. Picture by Roy Reed Photographer

    Death of another port stalwart

    News of the death of Mike Fell, well known in the ports in South Africa and in Italy will come as a shock for all those who knew this most likeable man. Fell was only 51 when he died of a heart attack following surgery for cancer.

    During the years he worked in the South African ports Mike Fell was at the Durban Container Terminal, working for what was then known as Portnet (now Transnet Port Operations).

    Together with his friend and colleague at DCT, Ton Bestenbreur, he resigned to go to Italy to a senior position at the Trieste container terminal. After completing his contract in Italy he returned to South Africa and joined the Fresh Produce Terminals (FPT), initially at Durban before being appointed as general manager of the Port Elizabeth terminal.

    Following some years in Port Elizabeth Mike Fell transferred to FPT in Cape Town as general manager of marketing for the company until ill health forced him to take early retirement. Mike Fell is survived by his wife and children.

    Pic of the day – MOL STRENGTH

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The container ship MOL STRENGTH seen in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Send us your news and press releases for inclusion in the News Bulletins. Shipping related pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za

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