The SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) says the salvage of the Japanese fishing vessel stuck at Clifton’s First Beach has become an issue of national importance.
The Eihatsu Maru has been stuck on a sandbank at the beach since Saturday morning
Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management spokesman, said another attempt at dislodging the vessel was scheduled to start at 10am on Tuesday.
“This is a very sensitive environmental area. Currently there is a low risk of any oil pollution, because the vessel is not on the rocks,” said Solomons-Johannes, adding that no fuel or cargo would be removed from the vessel before the salvage attempt was made.
The ship is carrying about 90 tons of fuel and 40 tons of tuna.
One attempt at salvaging the vessel has already failed. On Saturday night, the tow rope attached to the hull of the ship snapped. On Sunday, rough seas led the city’s disaster response team to call off a second attempt at dislodging the ship.
Smit Amandla Marine, the maritime service provider that has a contract with Samsa, led a team of engineers and salvage specialists on to the boat on Monday to assess the best way of dislodging the vessel.
Dave Colly, Samsa’s regional manager, said that after considering other possibilities, the team took the decision to stick with the method previously used – spanning a rope around the accommodation unit and pulling.
To avoid failure again, heavier equipment, stronger ropes and personnel would be airlifted on to the ship on Tuesday morning.
“It was definitely time to up the ante,” said Colly, referring to the fact that the salvage mission was upgraded to a national priority, and to the decision to airlift personnel and equipment.
“There is a rare window of opportunity in the days immediately after a ship runs on to a sand bank.
“We can’t quibble about costs and logistics any more; it just needs to get done.
“If the operation was to turn into a wreck removal, it would be a disaster. It would definitely be a more difficult, risky and dirty operation.”
Colly said that Smit Amandla had the resources to absorb the increased cost of the operation.
If the ship was successfully dislodged, Colly said, Samsa would remain in possession of the vessel.
The owner would not have access to the cargo and the vessel would remain “impounded” until he had repaid the outstanding costs of the operation.