According to the South Africa Maritime Authority (Samsa), the vessel, which suffered a mechanical failure causing it to ground on a sandbank, has now been moved toward the sea, with salvage experts aboard managing the towage in “abysmal” weather. “We’re going to hold her now about 20 miles off the coast,” spokesman Captain Nigel Campbell told South Africa’s Independent Online. “When they fly in to salvage the ship we will go through the damage assessment and we will decide where to go to from there.
“We’re towing with emergency towing gear that’s already been in use for six days. It’s not designed to last forever. We need a weather window to get the proper towing wires from the tug to the ship. As pleased as we are with progress, it’s not over yet.”
While a fuel oil spill affected the Goukumma nature reserve and marine protected area, concerns were somewhat mitigated after Samsa stemmed the spill, pumping the oil from the vessel’s engine room and airlifting it away in plastic tanks. Barriers were also established to prevent the spill from contaminating the Goukamma, Swartvlei and Knysna estuaries.
“Preparations for a major clean up will only happen once the ship has been removed - once the full impact of the spill has been assessed and the ship is out of the area and no longer a spill risk,” said joint operations centre spokeswoman Athane Scholtz. “This is to ensure minimum impact on the environment as continuous removal of little bits of oil is counterproductive and places unnecessary pressure on resources.”