The Japanese owner of the stricken fishing vessel the Eihatsu Maru – finally towed off Clifton’s First Beach on Friday following several failed attempts – is on his way to Cape Town as authorities prepare to assess the ship for damage in Table Bay Harbour.
The owner, from Japanese fishing company Eihatsu Gyogyo, has indicated that the company will cover the costs of the salvage of the ship, according to Pieter van Dalen, the DA’s spokesman on agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
It was third time lucky for the salvors about 3.40pm on Friday when the tow rope finally held and the Smit Amandla, described as one of the strongest tug boats in the world, got a bit of help from the waves to finally free the Eihatsu Maru. The beached vessel, which became something of a tourist attraction in the past week, ran aground in heavy fog early last Saturday.
As he watched the vessel being towed away ,Dave Colly, regional manager of the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), said it was the first time in a week that he had a smile on his face.
“The hard work, as well as the patience put in by everybody involved, has paid off,” he said.
He said the ship was being towed to Quay 500 in the harbour to be assessed for damage, and to allow customs officials to secure assets for potential future sale to meet costs incurred.
Before yesterday’s successful exercise, 90 tons of maritime diesel were removed by Samsa and transported for storage.
Colly said limitations to efforts to free the vessel had been severe.
“Normally we would turn the vessel around and tow it from its bow. However, we could not do it as there were rocks all around, so we had to tow it from its stern, which is a lot harder. However, through brute force and a bit of luck we finally got it free.”
Divers and seamen began the tow at 1pm yesterday and, after a great deal of initial movement, were able to move the vessel 20m from the shore in the first hour and a half. The excited reaction from the assembled crowd was shortlived as the vessel came to a halt.
At this point Colly explained that the vessel was moving “inch by inch, which is a good thing”.
As he predicted it might only be freed today, and people started leaving, two big waves came five minutes apart and the vessel was suddenly afloat.
Huge cheers echoed around the beach.
Japanese authorities confirmed investigations would follow questions raised regarding the ship’s background.
Shogo Okada, from local fishing company Kaytrad Commodities, said: “The ship is registered to a company in Tokyo, Japan and the crew is from Taiwan. Also the owners and the captain have links to China. It is not normal for a Japanese ship not to have any Japanese crew.”
j - Weekend Argus