Oil spill probe from vessel bunkering operation in Algoa Bay continues

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An investigating of an oil spill that occurred during a vessel bunkering operation in Algoa Bay is still underway. (Picture: Raggy Charters)
An investigating of an oil spill that occurred during a vessel bunkering operation in Algoa Bay is still underway. (Picture: Raggy Charters)
  • A probe is underway after an oil spill occurred during a vessel bunkering operation in Algoa Bay last week.
  • Three Cape gannets and an African penguin were found to be contaminated by oil.
  • The SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) is probing the incident.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment along with the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) are still investigating an oil spill that occurred during a vessel bunkering operation in Algoa Bay, the Eastern Cape, last week.

In a joint statement, the department and Samsa said a small amount of emulsified heavy fuel oil, commonly known as tar balls, had washed ashore along the beach between Hougham Park and the Sundays River. Around 80l of fuel entered the sea. 

"A service provider has been appointed to remove the tar balls, samples were collected and submitted to Samsa to determine if the oil is from this incident," the statement added.

READ |  Oil spill sees 80 litres of fuel enter Algoa Bay, possibly endangering seabirds

To date four birds, among them three Cape gannets and an African penguin, were found to be contaminated by oil and have been captured. The birds are being cared for by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

The statement said:

The beaches and islands are being monitored daily when weather permits for any additional oil/tar balls or oiled wildlife. The vessel insurer is providing a 'letter of undertaking' to cover the costs of the clean-up operation and the vessel should be released soon.

Meanwhile, due to the wind and recent rains in St Helena Bay, the cargo holds of the NS Qingdao were closed to prevent further incidents and she was instructed to sail 20 nautical miles offshore from St Helena Bay as a precautionary measure.  

The NS Qingdao was discharging at the port last week when its chemical cargo was apparently soaked by rain, causing the cargo to become unstable and release toxic fumes into the atmosphere. The vessel was towed out to sea to ventilate its hatches offshore.

"The aim is to open and ventilate the cargo hold offshore due to the excess build-up of toxic fumes in the hold. Once the hold is properly ventilated, the vessel will return to St Helena to continue the discharge operation. She is being escorted by the tugs Umkhuseli and SA Amandla," the department and Samsa said in a statement.

They added the NS Qingdao was on safe anchorage in St Helena Bay where she was towed after her chemical cargo become unstable due to contact with rain while discharging in the port of Durban.

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