THE monumental 12-day operation to salvage the cargo ship that ran aground off Buffels Bay near Knysna came to naught when the vessel began to sink about 70 nautical miles off the coast last Monday.

In another marine accident, the 230m-long coal carrier, the SMART (as seen above and below), ran aground on a sandbank off the entrance to the Richards Bay harbour last Monday afternoon. Twenty-three people were airlifted to safety.


The vessel had been trying to leave the harbour in 10metre swells, National Sea Rescue Institute spokesman Craig Lambinon told Sapa. The captain gave the order to abandon ship as “the structural integrity of the ship was compromised”. Officials were sent to begin evaluations to save the ship.


Meanwhile, the KIANI SATU, carrying more than 300 tons of oil and 15 000 tons of rice, began taking on water when damage to it worsened yesterday morning.  “She is sinking. We are going to have to wave her goodbye,” said Captain Nigel Campbell, of the South African Maritime Safety Authority.  Earlier, the salvage crew on board the ship, which had been refloated on Saturday after lying 50 metres off the Buffels Bay beach for more than a week, were airlifted from the vessel. A decision was taken for the salvage tug to tow the vessel further out to sea, to where the depth was  1000 metres.


The KIANI SATU aground off Buffels Bay near Knysna

Campbell said at this depth the water temperature was between 3ºC and 5ºC, which it was hoped would be cold enough to “solidify” the oil on board the ship so that it could limit the spread of oil. “When she sinks it will be up to the Department of Environmental Affairs to monitor the situation,” Campbell said.

The Department of Environmental Affairs’ spokesman, Zolile Nqayi, said it had been accepted that the vessel would sink.  Nqayi said the department had been assured by the ship’s German owners, Esmeralda Schiffahrts, that all the costs – including those involved in the ship’s sinking – would be covered by the company. Esmeralda Schiffahrts and its insurers have confirmed that they will cover the costs of the salvage and every other eventuality, including $1 billion (R9.8bn) insurance cover to clean up the pollution.

Source : Cape Times