Friday, July 21, 2006
A South African container ship, the MV Umfolozi, has been stolen from Walvis Bay, where it has been docked since colliding with a South African-registered dredger, the MV Ingwenya, in September. The Namibian Ports Authority confirmed it had disappeared on Wednesday and said the port captain, Vladimir Gusev, had been suspended. It is believed the vessel sailed north into Angolan waters. The Namibian and Angolan defence forces are co-operating in the search for the Umfolozi. The Umfolozi was detained last month after the South African Ports Authority won a high court order against Seagate Shipping for the damage to the dredger. After it was repaired, the Umfolozi was renamed the Michael S and sold to a Greek shipowner, Alexander Saleh. Namibian press reports said Saleh flew out of the country at the weekend. It is alleged that crew members boarded the ship under false pretences, held two security guards captive and later dumped them and their possessions overboard.Walvis Bay's acting deputy sheriff, Andre Visser, said the disappearance of the Umfolozi was being treated as a crime. "The operation was clearly planned. We suspect that the vessel has entered Angolan waters," Visser said. "The Angolan army and navy are on full alert and, if they should spot the ship, they will make it turn back to Namibia." The Umfolozi, with about 335 tons of fuel oil on board, was on its way to Cape Town and the Ingwenya heading for Walvis Bay when they collided. About 100 tons of heavy fuel oil and diesel were spilled.