On 12 May 2012, at 06h15 NSRI Table Bay duty crew were called-out by the Transnet National Ports Authority following reports of a fishing boat running aground at Clifton.
On arrival on-scene our NSRI mobile units searched for the vessel from the shore-line in thick fog. When the motors of the vessel were heard we realised the vessel was off First Beach Clifton said Paula Leech, NSRI Table Bay station commander.
NSRI Table Bay launched Spirit of Vodacom and Rotary Endeavor and NSRI Bakoven launched Spirit of Rotary Table Bay. On arrival we found the Eihatsu Maru, a 50 meter Japanese registered long liner, 50 meters off-shore, in the wave-line, with 28 Taiwanese fishermen and the Captains dog, a cross border collie named Alley, on-board.
The generators of the vessel were still running and all crew onboard safe so we monitored the vessel gradually being pushed closer to land until she came to rest on a sand bank about 35 meters from the beach line said Bruce Davidson, NSRI Bakoven station commander.
METRO EMS rescue crews, the SA Police Force, Disaster Management, Law Enforcement, Metro Police, a Police Dive Unit, members of the SA Navy, members of the Cape Town City Department of Environment and Cape Town Traffic Services joined the rescue operation maintaining safety of the scene and preparing to assist the NSRI if any of the crew had decided to abandon ship.
It became evident that the vessel was hard aground at a slight list and there was minimal risk of any injury occurring to any of the crew on-board.
NSRI Commanders instructed the Captain of the ship not to let any of his crew abandon ship while the situation was being assessed based on the evidence that the vessel was hard aground and showed no risk of capsizing and appearing not to be damaged.
SAMSA (The South African Maritime Safety Authority) arrived on-scene to assess damage to the vessel and to assess options to get the vessel back out to sea.
A tug is en-route to the scene from Simon’s Town and efforts to tow the vessel out to sea may be made at around 21h00 today at high tide.
Two NSRI rescue swimmers were placed onboard the vessel and Taiwanese Consulate staff and the ships agent assisted the NSRI with language interpretations between the casualty vessel crew and NSRI rescuers.
NSRI rescue craft on the scene then successfully evacuated 19 of the fishermen off the casualty vessel, bringing them to Table Bay harbour. Nine crew remain onboard their vessel (as a skeleton crew) and the Captain has insisted that his dog stays with him onboard. They are all safe.
A salvage company has made a damage assessment on behalf of SAMSA and it appears that the integrity of the hull has not been compromised and authorities are cautiously optimistic that the vessel will be able to be towed out to sea tonight.
The Department of Environment and Disaster Management will maintain a presence at the scene to evaluate any environmental risk, there is reportedly 90 tons of fuel onboard and there is reportedly also ammonia on-board – used in the refrigeration.
They will continue to monitor the situation while SAMSA, the Salvors, the ships agent, the ships captain and the ships owners negotiate salvage options and prepare their efforts to try to tow the vessel out to sea tonight.
One crewman has a minor laceration to his hand and was treated by the NSRI. It is reportedly a laceration sustained 5 days ago while the vessel was at sea. The patient has been advised to be seen to by a medical facility.
It is still not known what caused the vessel to run aground. The engines and the generators continue to work and while it is suspected that the thick fog may have played a role a formal investigation will be conducted by SAMSA to determine the cause and the sequence of events that led to the grounding of the Eihatsu Maru on Clifton’s First Beach today.
The 19 rescued crewmen have been taken to immigration services and their ships agent will arrange accommodation for them.
Pictures are available for media download on Sea Rescue’s Flickr page.