The container ship Sam Ratulangi PB 1600 sailing from Durban in May 2003. Terry Hutson
Durban - A ghost ship that was discovered at sea by fishermen minus any crew and drifting on the currents grounded on a beach in the Yangon region of Myanmar last week.

The mystery ship was once a regular visitor to South African ports.

The photograph accompanying this was taken on one of the ship’s calls while in a joint service to the Far East. Sam Ratulangi PB 1600 raised some interest then purely because of her name, and it was eventually someone in Singapore who provided the answers.

A Mr Jonathan Boonzaaier, a former South African now living in Singapore, advised that the name Sam Ratulangi was that of an Indonesian hero, while the PB stood for “Palwo Buwono”, or the class of ship, and the 1600 was simply the TEU (container) capacity of the vessel.

The owner of the ship back then was Djakarta Lloyd, a state-owned Indonesian container ship company, and she was operating in a joint service with K Line, MISC and PIL between Asia and South Africa. Fifteen years later the ship is no longer in the pristine condition that she was when she was photographed that day in 2003 heading out from Durban. The 177m container ship has fallen on hard times, and when discovered last week she was empty and rusty, although still seaworthy, drifting by herself.

Investigators discovered that Sam Ratulangi PB 1600 had been under tow to a breaker’s yard in Bangladesh when the tow was lost. Sam Ratulangi PB 1600 drifted away until discovered by fishermen. Eventually she neared the Myanmar coast and was washed on to a beach, where she now rests.

Perhaps the real mystery is how Sam Ratulangi PB 1600 ended up in such poor condition just 17 years after being launched.

Certainly when she was photographed in Durban in 2003, 15 years ago, she appeared in handsome condition.

The Mercury