Image: Glen Martin

Image: Glen Martin

It’s been just two days since the bulk carrier MV Smart ran aground on a South African beach, but the incident is already being coined as the biggest salvage event in the history of the country.

As gCaptain reported, the 273-meter long bulk carrier ran aground on a sand bar on August 19, 2013 while departing the Port of Richards Bay laden with 147,650 tons of coal.  In an emailed statement on 22 August from ship owner spokesperson Pat Adamson, “the Master believed that MV Smart had suffered extensive damages to her hull and steering gear” which led to a loss of steering control immediately outside the breakwater.  The result was catastrophic as she ended up snapping in half at around amidships while being battered by waves up to 10 meters.

Adamson notes that “in consultation with Richards Bay harbour authorities, the crew was ordered by the port authorities to abandon the ship” approximately 90 minutes after running aground.

Although severe weather kept salvage crews at bay for most of Tuesday, it seems that effort have began to pick up.

The South African-based maritime services company, Subtech Group, has been hired to head the pollution response and fuel removal along with SMIT, and efforts to mobilize crews and equipment have been ongoing.

In an update from Subtech, the company said that Salvage Master, Neil Scott-Williams is on site with Morgan Castle and a dive team and RHIB which were mobilized Tuesday night. The update said that a Subtech crane truck/barge and the tugs Reier and Teras Hydra are mobilizing today. Meanwhile, the Fairmount Glacier will mobilize out of Cape Town and additional resources are being flown in from Holland by SMIT.

Initial efforts will focus on the fuel and lube oil removal. Reports in the media have indicated that there is estimated 1,769 tons of fuel oil and 129 tons of diesel on board the vessel.

A marine conservation officer from Richards Bay, Kevin Green, told local iOL news earlier Wednesday that although there was no fuel leaking from the ship, some of the ship’s payload had begun to shift out.

“There is coal dust coming out of the ship, which our scientists are currently evaluating to assess the threat,” Green told the paper. He added the coal did not pose an immediate threat and the main focus will be on keeping the fuel contained.

With any luck the weather will hold out and salvage crews will make quick work of the remaining fuel, cargo and remaining hull from the area. We’ll be sure to update as new information comes in.

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