Thursday 22 August 2013

Oil spill feared after ship sinks of South African coast.

An operation to recover oil from a ship which sank of the coast of Richards Bay, KwaZulu Natal, on Monday 19 August 2013, is due to begin today (Thursday 22 August). The VS Smart, a 230 m Greek-registered bulk cargo carrier, left the port with a cargo of 147,650 tonnes of coal at 2.10 pm local time (12.10 pm GMT), when it encountered a 10 m swell, which apparently smashed the vessel against the seafloor, breaking it in half. All 23 crew members were airlifted to safety, and there is no sign that the fuel tanks on board the vessel, which hold around 1500 tonnes of heavy fuel plus an unknown quantity of diesel, have been breached, however the ship is close to the Mhlathuze Sanctuary Wildlife Reserve, which is considered to be an important breeding ground for a number of commercially important Fish species as well as home to over 20 000 waterbirds,  causing concerns for the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

The stricken VS Smart off the coast of Richards Bay. Zululand Observer.

The salvage operation will involve the Durban-based Subtech Group and Rotterdam-based Smit Salvage, and will involve pumping the oil from the vessel to a flat bottomed barge. The salvage teams have warned that further poor weather conditions, which are forecast, could interrupt the operation.

The approximate location of the VS Smart. Google Maps.

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