Del LLoyds List
London, Sep 9 — A press report, dated today, states: The tons of fuel on bulk carrier Seli 1 that ran aground off Cape Town is a huge threat to the environment. Seli 1 was en route to Gibraltar with 30,000 tonnes of coal and 660 tonnes of fuel on board when bad weather drove it onto a sandbar off Blouberg beach. Her 25 crew were rescued.
The SA Maritime Safety Authority has asked salvors to prioritise the removal of the fuel from the stranded ship. Smit Salvage spokesman Clare Gomes said yesterday: «The salvage operation will start as soon as weather and sea conditions improve, probably only tomorrow.» The National Sea Rescue Institute’s station commander at Table Bay, Pat van Eyssen, said: «The vessel at first appeared to be aground approximately half a nautical mile offshore on soft sand after being driven ashore by up to 45-knot gusting westerly winds and 5m swells after her anchor snapped. At approximately midnight, with waves crashing over the bow of the ship, and while she rolled and listed in the rising tide, it is suspected that her hull was holed, and after her engine-room flooded and water rose inside the ship, her captain sent out a Mayday to abandon ship.»
The crew were brought to the NSRI Table Bay rescue base where their conditions were assessed by metro paramedics. The department of environmental affairs’ pollution patrol aircraft Kuswag 9 flew over the freighter yesterday morning and reported no oil visible in the water, said department spokesman Carol Moses. «We will continue monitoring the situation. Our concern is the fuel, which is the risk to the environment. We can not say exactly what the risk is, but it is a sensitive area, with coastal dunes.» Gomes said all relevant authorities, including Cape Town’s disaster management service and Transnet National Ports Authority, had contingency plans for minimising the effect of an oil spill. «Salvors repot that attempts to refloat her might worsen her condition,» Gomes said. Her engine-room is flooded and tidal, indicating structural damage to the ship during the grounding. Salvage workers have been flown to the vessel to try to stabilise it and prepare for the fuel to be removed. Standby salvage tug Smit Amandla is in the area.