A combination of a sophisticated historical and theoretical analysis of the shipping industry Now Cape Town – A commission of inquiry began  on Monday to probe the circumstances around the grounding of a cargo ship off Buffels Bay near Knysna.

The 168m bulk carrier Kiani Satu sank almost two weeks ago after numerous salvage efforts managed to refloat her. According to the SA Maritime Safety Authority, the Kiani Satu sank in 1 000m of water 110 nautical miles south of Buffels Bay.

She ran aground at the beginning of last month, forcing the captain and his 19-member crew to abandon ship. The ship was believed to have suffered an engine breakdown in heavy seas while carrying 330 tons of fuel oil and 15 000 tons of rice. The cargo was later lost in the sinking. The owners and insurers of the cargo approached the Western Cape High Court to order the ship’s owner to make relevant documents and its crew available for evidence purposes.

Judge Willem Louw granted the order on Wednesday and appointed commissioner David Melunsky to take the evidence concerned in terms of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act.

The respondents were ordered to remain in the vicinity until the commissioner had taken their evidence or excused them from proceedings. The respondents are the cargo ship owner, the ship’s master and crew, the hull and machinery insurers, the protection and indemnity insurers, P & I associates, and Esmeralda (Antigua) Shipping Limited.

Gavin Fitzmaurice, the instructing attorney for the owners and insurers of the ship’s cargo, said the commission would be held in Cape Town and take between five and seven days. Proceedings were closed to the media.

“The respondent has objected to the presence at the commission of the media. The applicant has no objection,” Fitzmaurice said.