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A South African coastguard aircraft has spotted and photographed a foreign container ship trailing a long oil slick off the Eastern Cape coast.
But local maritime authorities Ä who have identified the vessel as the Conti Hong Kong Ä are “powerless” to act, according to a reliable source in the maritime sector.
The source said the container ship was spotted by a Kuswag plane on Thursday, “discharging oil from its bilges” at a position 14
nautical miles off Hamburg, south of East London.
“The slick was four nautical miles long and 50 metres wide at the time it was spotted,” the source told Sapa.
South African maritime authorities were powerless to act against the vessel because there was “zero response capability”, the source said.
It is understood the Conti Hong Kong is westbound for Lagos in Nigeria, having sailed from Colombo in Sri Lanka.
Contacted for comment, a SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) official - who declined to be named - confirmed the vessel had been spotted by a Kuswag plane within South African waters.
The official said Samsa could not say whether the ship was leaking oil or discharging it from its bilges.
“But it's definitely illegal.”
The official said however there was “no capability to go out there to stop the vessel and what's happening”.
If the Conti Hong Kong did not put into an SA port, there was nothing the local authorities could do.
Two months ago, all South Africa's maritime patrol vessels were handed over, by the department of fisheries, to the SA Navy. The vessels are still being commissioned and, according to a navy official on Friday, will be ready for sea operations “in the next two weeks or so”.
According to the website www.marinetraffic.com, the Conti Hong Kong is a 26 000-ton container vessel, built in 1989. She is registered in the Marshall Islands. - Sapa