27 July 2011

Tanker MT Phoenix hits the rocks:

Maritime safety authorities had tried to get the stricken ship, the MT Phoenix, into harbour but Durban and Richards Bay harbours were full.

Gale-force winds and 5m swells swept the tanker from the outer anchorage, snapped the tow to the tug and, despite all attempts, ended on the rocks at Christmas Bay, Sheffield Beach.

The derelict bulk tanker had been rescued earlier this month after its engines failed seven miles off the Eastern Cape coast. After initially being towed out to sea, it had been taken to Durban to bring it back into the jurisdiction of the courts.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) wanted the MT Phoenix out of the country’s waters for weeks “because she is not in a very good condition”, said Captain Nigel Campbell, Samsa regional manager.

A ship which broke free from a tow line lies stranded near the shore at Sheffield Beach some 60km (37 miles) north of Durban, July 26, 2011. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
The 40-year-old, 164m oil tanker was on her way from West Africa to a scrapyard in India and had a 15-man skeleton crew on board.

When the owners failed to respond to Samsa, the authority approached the KwaZulu-Natal High Court for the detention, seizure and sale of the vessel.

The order was granted on July 22. The High Court was scheduled to make the order final on August 4. Buyers for the vessel had been identified.

While awaiting this process, the ship was at anchor offshore of the Durban north coast, but the cold front pushed through.

Anti-pollution equipment and a helicopter were deployed to the site. The hull is secure and there appears to be no oil leaking into the water. The ship has about 400 cubic metres of marine gas oil (fuel) on board, but no heavy oil. “But she is sitting in rocks and that is not good,” Campbell said.

Source: Cape Argus. 27 July 2011

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