Cape Town mops up after oil spill

Cape Town has begun to mop-up following the sinking of the bulk ore carrier, the Treasure.

Co-ordinated mopping-up operations began at first light in the Mouille Point area where municipal workers have started removing oiled kelp and accumulated pools of oil within the rocky areas just off the beach, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said on Sunday.

The Treasure sank off the west coast of Cape Town on Friday spewing heavy duty fuel oil. The ship was carrying 140 000 ton of iron ore and 1 300 tons of fuel oil when it sank.

Samsa's Captain Bill Dernier said the council was making use of vacuum tanks specifically designed to suck up oil from the water.

Dernier said a delegation from Robben Island were presently in a meeting with the council's disaster management team where the removal of all penguins from the island would be discussed. The aim was to prevent the entire colony from being affected by the spill.

By 1pm on Sunday some 1 200 oiled penguins had been removed from the island, where oil was coming ashore on the north-west side of the island.

An Oryx helicopter from 22 Squadron at Ysterplaat was ferrying oil-contaminated penguins from Robben Island to the South African National Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) rehabilitation centre at Rietvlei in Tableview.

A spokesman for Task Force West Colonel Piet Paxton was unable to say how many trips the Oryx would make.

By 5pm on Saturday Sanccob had removed 700 penguins from Robben Island and treated them.

Dernier said the pollution abatement aircraft Kuswag VII reported on Sunday that heavy oil had started collecting at the entrance to the Victoria and Alfred breakwater which was affecting Granger Bay, Mouille Point and Sea Point areas.

Fortunately there have been no reports of oil on the west coast.

Dernier said three of the Treasure's hatches, which sank in 50 metres of water 6,5 sea miles north-west of Melkbospunt, north of Cape Town, had washed ashore near Melkbosstrand and Big Bay.

Meanwhile a six-man dive team aboard the Sea Carrier at the scene of the wreck, reported on Sunday afternoon that very little oil was leaking out of the ship.

"The Kuswag VII aircraft pilots have confirmed this and report no sign of sheen on the water between the wreck and Robben Island," Dernier said.

He said the dive team would continue to close off any oil leakage from the wreck and continue with survey work.

"Salvors Smit Pentow Marine have been appointed as contractors to minimise the escape of bunkers from the wreck of the Treasure and, in a second phase, to remove all the remaining oil from the wreck," Dernier said.

"The port of Cape Town has been sealed off by oil pollution booms in an effort to prevent polluting the port."

The Granger Bay yacht basin and the slipway at the Oceana Power Boat club have also been "boomed off" and boat and yacht owners have been advised that use these access points at their own risk.

Just north-west of Robben Island, a large patch of emulsified oil had been reported, about 1km long and 400 metres wide, half a mile off shore. It was moving in a south-westerly direction past the island.

The director of the Cape Town City Council's water and waste management Kendall Keveney said there were presently some 50

workers cleaning up beaches.

"We could be here for a few days or weeks," Keveney said.

Samsa spokesman Pim Zandee said that divers had confirmed that the Treasure had suffered structural damage when sinking.

"The dive team reports oil globules rising from cracks in the hull. Engine room vents, which were previously leaking a steady stream of oil, have been closed off - drastically reducing the amount of oil making its way from the wreck to the surface," he said.

Samsa has instructed the owners of the vessel to provide a more detailed diving survey on Sunday with a plan to remove any remaining oil in the vessel. The vessel is, however, sitting securely on the ocean bottom.

Sanccob's manager Estelle van der Merwe urged members of the public who found oiled or injured seabirds to place them in a well-ventilated box with newspaper and to bring them to Sanccob.

Members of the public who find oiled or injured birds can telephone Sanccob on 021-557-6155. - Sapa


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