Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stranded Ship Starts Spilling Oil

A light, oily sheen of diesel oil was being constantly monitored on Monday as it streamed from the stranded Safmarine Agulhas. Environmental Affairs representative Nazeera Hargey said officials were unsure about the quantity of oil leaking from the crack, but were dealing with the matter. The patch of sheen was seen moving away from the coast in a southerly direction and the oil pollution abatement vessel Kuswag IV was on the scene and helping to break it up. In the last 17 days, 720 tons of heavy fuel oil has been removed from the Agulhas. Marine salvors were trying to remove the 20 tons still on board when a crack on the portside of the vessel started leaking diesel oil on Monday afternoon. The 16 800 ton Safmarine Agulhas ran aground shortly after its engines failed while leaving the East London port in June.
Safmarine Agulhas
The vessel has been aground for 21 days. Several refloating attempts have failed and any more will depend on the deterioration of the ship's structural integrity . "Subject to grounding forces and the continuous powerful action of the sea, the deterioration of the vessel's structural integrity remains cause for concern and is being assessed and monitored by the onboard salvage team," said the salvors, the National Ports Authority and the Department of Environmental Affairs. Bad weather over the weekend had made it difficult to remove the 175 cargo containers still on board the ship and had further compromised its structural integrity, they said. A team of environmental experts had been in East London since the vessel ran aground and oil spill abatement equipment was at the ready, should it be needed.
Smit Amandla
Daily beach patrols were monitoring the impact on the environment, but the risk to the marine environment had reduced with the removal of heavy oil from the vessel. The tug "Smit Amandla" was still connected to the vessel and was holding it off of the breakwater. On Friday, crew, officers and salvors had to be evacuated from the ship amid high swells.

blog counter