Various officials are currently meeting with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to establish a salvage operation for the stranded trawler on Clifton’s First Beach. A source familiar with the maritime industry believes it’s quite unlikely that the vessel wouldn’t have known what it was doing, and that fog would not have played a role in the grounding.
The source voiced concern at the fact that on face value – after having himself studied the visible navigational equipment aboard the vessel – that the accident should never have happened.
According to the source, the fog should not have played a role, and it was strange that port authorities hadn’t alerted the captain of the vessel’s proximity to the shore.
The source went on to suggest that the incident might be a “purposeful grounding” because there were no reported engine issues. The delay from authorities in the issuing of the exact reasons why the trawler ran aground doesn’t help either:
That trawler has enough hitech marine electronics onboard to know exactly its position within min 5 meters; there has to be another reason here worth looking into this vessel running aground. These trawlers operate in deep sea conditions, they know exactly where they are at any given moment on the high seas, don’t think fog played a role here as there is fog at sea around the world. Worth looking into this situation. This trawler needs to be removed as soon as possible, they most probably going to remove the fuel, the ammonia on board is for the refrigeration, this is a long line tuna boat its sole purpose is tuna.
I’ve studied the various antenna systems, seen on the photos, the master of the vessel is in direct contact with his office in Japan as the satcomms antenna is clearly visible, the entire vessel gets written off, with its load any negotiations between the owners\insurers\agents\salvage operators is solely for the removal of the vessel, removing the fuel 1st and maybe its load poses additional problems on its existing location in relation to the weather\tidal currents, its going to become difficult to remove this vessel, as it going to get pushed further inshore with the bed suction\sand building up along its keel, the ammonia is a environmental risk factor to residents\sea life in the immediate area, the ammonia is located in tanks on board or cylinders, the fuel tanks are under the bottom and that is where the risk is going to be coming from, although it is aground on a sandbank the concern is going to be more what is beneath the sand\seabed, that is the risk factors here, the longer it stays aground the more it buries itself into the sea bed.
2oceansVibe spoke with two chemical engineers about the risks posed by any potential leaks from the substances aboard the vessel, notably the ammonia and the fuel.
Lev Rushforth explained:
Ammonia (liquid) is used as a refrigerant for fishing trawlers’ massive freezers. At atmospheric conditions it vapourises at -33 degree C, which would be fine if it wasn’t submerged in water. Ammonia is highly soluble in water and forms ammonium and hydroxide. This is more dangerous in stagnant water masses (dams and reservoirs) and should pose a much smaller risk in the sea. Although the risk is there and depending on the mass discharged and how quickly the current can spread and dilute any of the hydroxide, there might be damage to fish.
Gaseous ammonia exposure to the surrounding houses could also cause heavy irritation and human health risks depending on concentrations.
I assume that where the boat is currently stranded, the concentrations would be minimal in the surrounding air and despite mild irritations, it does not pose a serious health threat to humans as it is in the open and gas will dilute very quickly.
The damage done by fuel spillage is highly variable depending on the fuel. I assume that the fuel on a trawler would mostly be diesel. Since diesel is a refined oil product, the damage is less about oil sticking to feathers etcetera, and more about the poisonous nature of these lighter fuels. The damage tends to start with the smaller organisms and then spreads right up the food chain as the large amounts of organisms with oil in their tissues are consumed by higher order predators. Diesel is much less viscous than crude which will also make it close to impossible to remove it of the surface of the water, especially with such choppy seas and the shallow water. Conventional methods of surface removal will not work.
The damage to fish is extensive: red blood cell damage, decrease in eggshell thickness, organ damage etcetera. The poisons in the diesel do get broken down and weathered quite quickly in the sea, so the damage will also be very dependent on the amount of diesel spilt and the rate at which that diesel is diluted by the sea currents into the surrounding water.
Reay Dicks agreed that the greatest risk posed was likely to come from the ammonia. The City of Cape Town’s Gregg Oelofse confirmed the following to 2oceansVibe earlier:
Salvage operations continue and plans are being put in place to pull the vessel off the beach.
The vessel has not suffered any damage as yet and as such pollution risk at this time is very low. We will continue to monitor the situation.
As in all cases, SAMSA is investigating how the stranding took place.
At the time of writing this article, 2oceansVibe had not been able to get an official response from SAMSA.
The Eihatsu Maru has grounded in such a way that it has made itself nearly impossible to tow from the beach. Authorities have also aborted a plan to attach a metal plate to her that would have been specifically designed for towing her.
SAMSA’s job is not going to get any easier as the swell starts to increase during the course of the week, peaking at more than five meters on the weekend.
You can watch the salvage operation as it unfolds live by following this LINK.
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