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Durban - Twenty-three people were airlifted to safety on Monday from a ship that ran aground on a sand bank off the harbour entrance to Richards Bay.
National Sea Rescue Institute spokesman Craig Lambinon said this happened as the vessel tried to exit the harbour in 10-metre swells.
Three tugs were attempting to pull the 230-metre long coal cargo ship, the Smart, off the sand bank.
Lambinon said that shortly after 4pm the order was given by the captain to abandon ship as “the structural integrity of the ship was compromised”.
A NSRI vessel was launched and four sorties were flown by the Transnet Ports of Authority helicopter to lift all the ships crew and a Transnet pilot from the vessel.
Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said that none of the crew sustained serious injury. It was mostly “bumps and bruises”.
Lambinon said the SA Maritime Safety Authority was en route to investigate and begin evaluations to save the ship.
Transnet ports spokeswoman Lunga Ngcobo said she could not immediately comment on the incident and that she was on her way to Richards Bay.