Cape Africa cofferdam attempt fails

Jun 2, 2004
Author: Smit Salvage


Efforts on Tuesday (2 June) to secure a cofferdam over the area of damage in hold No. 3 of the bulk carrier Cape Africa were not successful.

The steel cofferdam, measuring some 26m x 11m x 1.5m in size and weighing 65 tonnes, was transferred from the barge Niord and held in place adjacent to the area of damage during the course of the afternoon, but with the strong surge of water moving in and out of hold No. 3, as well as the effect of an increasing swell condition, it became apparent that in order to preserve the structural integrity of the Cape Africa, the cofferdam would have to be released.

The structure was cut loose in the early hours of this morning in a water depth of 39 metres. As a result of the action of the cofferdam against the hull, the No. 2 double bottom tank was breached and flooded. Divers have located the hole, measuring some 20cm x 20cm, and it is in the process of being repaired. Once repaired, No. 2 double bottom tank will be pumped dry.

Salvors are now evaluating alternatives to the cofferdam. These are being developed in consultation with the South African Maritime Safety Authority and the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism and a revised salvage plan will be agreed to before the end of the week. All will be kept advised as to progress in this regard.

Early this morning, a dive team located the cofferdam on the sandy bottom and salvors will determine the most appropriate method by which to recover it in due course.

Of paramount importance during the Cape Africas time at anchor in False Bay, considered by the South African Maritime Safety Authority to be a place of refuge for the damaged vessel and not a location in which to conduct permanent repairs, is the protection of the marine environment. To this end, both proactive and reactive environmental protection measures are in place.

The Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism's oil pollution patrol and abatement vessel - Kuswag IV - remains on the scene and undertakes regular patrols in the vicinity of the casualty - for the purpose of oil pollution patrol as well as the monitoring of adherence to anti-pollution and garbage disposal measures.

The salvage team has strict anti-littering and garbage disposal control measures in place, including the regular removal of this waste in an enclosed waste skip by launch vessel to Simon's Town. The oil pollution patrol aircraft - Kuswag VIII - continues to patrol False Bay on a regular basis.

As part of the precautionary measures put in place prior to the Cape Africa's entry into False Bay, contingency plans remain in place for all river estuaries and for Seal Island and the Boulders Penguin Colony. A Smit Salvage team completed the removal of approximately 1800 tonnes of bunker fuel from the bulk carrier Cape Africa on Friday 14 May, which was one of the requirements that had to be fulfilled prior to her entry into False Bay.

The 150 000 Dwt bulk carrier Cape Africa is owned by U-Ming Marine Transportation Corporation and was built in 1991. She is carrying a cargo of iron ore and was en route to the Far East from Ponta da Madeira in Brazil. The Master and crew were flown off the casualty on Wednesday 28 April as a precautionary measure after reporting extensive structural damage in hold No. 3 earlier.


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