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Capesize coal vessel sinks off South Africa's east coast

World Coal,

South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said in a statement that a coal bulk cargo ship, the MV Smart, was pushed into a shallow sand bank adjacent to the exit channel of the Richard’s Bay coal terminal (RBCT) by 10 m swells.

The capsize vessel ran aground and partially sank, breaking apart, with large parts of the vessel underwater.

“Tugs tried to assist the vessel but to no avail. The vessel has buckled and broken in two,” the RBCT port authority, Transnet said in a statement.

Terminal access

Traffic from the 91 million tpa terminal was temporarily suspended until further notice due to adverse weather conditions, Transnet said. However, after weather conditions cleared, the terminal reopened and continued operations as per usual.

The NSRI said that the 230 m ship was not blocking shipping lanes at the Indian Ocean port or impeding operations at the RBCT. The coal terminal is the largest coal shipping point on the African continent.

Environmental impact

There has been no statement to indicate what coal type of coal the ship was carrying. Though some market sources have suggested the ship was carrying 5500 kcal/kg NAR South African thermal coal bought from a Swiss trading house.

“Currently, there is no environmental impact,” Preston Khomo, RBCT port manager. “There is no oil spillage at this stage.”

The single hull, 151,279 t ship is registered to Alpha Marine Corp. and flies a Panamanian flag. After loading at Richard’s Bay it was intended to deliver its cargo of coal to a port in China, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The ship remains stranded off the exit channel, with Transnet noting it was closely monitoring the environmental impact of the incident.

Crew members safe

On Monday, 23 crew members of the MV Smart, including the captain, were air lifted from the capsize vessel after it ran aground. No injuries were reported. 

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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