30 July 2011, Capt. N.T.Campbell, SAMSA Regional Manager: Southern Region
“The operations continue to remove the pollutants from the vessel and to date we can report the following;
- All the drums containing lube oils, grease and other rubbish from the decks have been flown ashore;
- Pumping of the fuel commenced yesterday to the bladders ashore and then to the road tankers, it is estimated that some 50 tonnes were taken off;
- The heavy duty pumps finally arrived, having been delayed when the road transport became stuck in the snow; and were flown on board this morning; this has increase the pumping rate to approximately 100 tonnes per hour;
- The operation is being slowed due to slower rate of pumping the bladders to the road tankers against a 40 metre head;
- If the current rate is maintained removal of the fuel should be completed on Sunday 31 July;
- The work of strengthening the bow is on-going and preparations are being made to connect the Smit Amandla to the Phoenix before last light today. This is not an attempt to tow the vessel off the rocks but to stabilize the vessel and stop her moving on the rocks.
During the operation yesterday the tug Mahaweli towing the bulk carrier Asma 1 to scrap, requested assistance 24 nautical miles east of Durban. The Smit Amandla was scrambled to stand by until the Mahaweli resolved her main engine problems. The weather conditions atrocious with gale force south westerly winds with 8 metre swells. When the Mahweli regained her engine power the tug and tow were ordered to clear the coast. The Smit Amanda started her return to the Phoenix.
We have been asked to comment on why with the Smit Amandla in attendance did the Phoenix ground and was this an “insurance job”. The following facts are now in our possession;
- The Smit Amandla fired 8 rocket lines to the Phoenix while attempting to reconnect, 6 of these lines have been found on board the Phoenix;
- Two messenger lines were then put on board the Phoenix in order to allow them to pull the towing gear on board. The Phoenix reported that on both occasions the messenger rope “slipped off” the drum end of the winch. Various maritime experts have been consulted and none of them can recall this happening in previous operations, in these conditions it is possible that the messenger line would part;
- The Master of the Smit Amandla had to instruct the Master of the Phoenix to pay out more anchor cable when the vessel started dragging. A very junior officer knows that this is the first action that is taken when a vessel starts dragging anchor.
It would not be the first time that an unscrupulous ship owner was prepared to sacrifice a vessel in attempt to realise the insured value.
The Smit Amandla Marine salvage crew on board have been suspicious that there is still one person still on board, all the crew were accounted for when they were evacuated from the vessel. Last night a medical kit was left in the accommodation prior to the salvage team being flown ashore. This morning some of the medication was missing. As the salvage team are totally consumed in removing the fuel from the vessel, the South African Police Services will be requested to search the vessel. It is not unusual for vessels coming from West Africa to have stowaways on board.
Contrary to recent newspaper reports the documentation in our possession indicates that the owners of the vessel are either A & L Shipping Inc. of Panama or A & L Shipping of Belize. We have also been contacted by Lloyds Casualty Intelligence of London as they can find no records of the Phoenix, however a vessel of the same type, size and name was scrapped in India in November 2010.
The vast majority of Sheffield Beach residents have been fully supportive of the effort being extended to avoid a massive pollution incident which has led to disruption to their lives.
SAMSA and the salvage team would especially want to salute Mr & Mrs Don and Carolyn Spier, the vessel is beached directly opposite her house. She has opened her house to the salvage team and her lounge is the operations centre, they are also being offered food and coffee continuously. The fuel lines run through her garden into her house and then to the road tankers. This unselfish gesture is making a difficult operation much easier and we are extremely grateful for her support.”