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PORT ELIZABETH -  The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) has launched an investigation to establish why up to 400 litres of oil spilled into the ocean off Port Elizabeth while a vessel was being refuelled.

In a statement, Samsa said the spillage, which occurred early on Saturday morning, was contained to the water and was not expected to reach the beach or surrounding islands.

Samsa said a company contracted to assess the effect of the spill confirmed that there were “no oil traces in the water”.

Between 200 and 400 litres of oil spilled in the Port of Ngqura 20km north east of Port Elizabeth at around 4.40am on Saturday morning while bunkering services company, SA Marine Fuels, was refuelling the MV Chrysanthi S.

According to SAMSA, the cause of the accident was overflow.

SA Marine Fuels immediately activated an oil spillage control exercise to contain the oil spread.

Samsa and other authorities were expected to conduct a check of the beaches and islands off Port Elizabeth on Monday. 

The check is to confirm that the oil did not reach land, said acting Samsa CEO Sobantu Tilayi.

“Samsa will conduct a comprehensive investigation into this unfortunate incident. While responsibility for preventing pollution by ships at sea no longer resides with Samsa but with the Department of Environmental Affairs, we take our role as the custodian of the country’s maritime affairs and for promoting South Africa’s maritime economy extremely seriously.

“We know the impact that an oil spill can have, from the marine wildlife affected to the people who earn their living from the sea and the local economy, and we will do everything in our power not only to ensure that the impact of this spill are contained, but also to ensure that it never happens again,” Tilayi said.

Tilayi said that the bunkering protocols adhered to by South Africa’s bunkering services companies were of world-class standard and that the public did not need to fear a repeat.

 African News Agency (ANA)