The joint effort undertaken by a Disaster Management team at the Port of Ngqura has helped to avert a potential maritime disaster and ultimately saved the container vessel APL Austria, which caught fire last weekend.
Transnet National Ports Authority, Transnet Port Terminals, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Fire Department, South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), South African Police Services (SAPS), National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and a stevedoring company, worked together to battle the blaze, and the fire was eventually extinguished on Wednesday, February 15.
Ngqura Port Manager, Mpumi Dweba-Kwetana, said the port had lost only half a day of operation on Monday, February 13 before container offloading resumed.
“It took just two and a half days to extinguish this dangerous blaze. Credit must be given to the disaster management role players for working together seamlessly. Our waterside and landside employees at the port also demonstrated that – despite being a relatively young harbour – Ngqura is well equipped to manage such a crisis,” she said.
“From a TNPA perspective, our efforts were led by the Harbor Master and supported by a 29-strong team including vessel traffic services (VTS) officers, a marine safety specialist, seven crew members per tug, nine berthing crew members, a pilot boat crew of six and four TNPA fire fighters.”
“It was also a great asset to have available our powerful tugs equipped with a 70 ton bollard pull. They were instrumental as we docked the vessel, offered boundary cooling to containers at anchorage and blanket sprayed the ship to control the fire,” she added.
The NSRI assisted to remove four nonessential crew members from the vessel, one of whom was injured and treated by the Eastern Cape Department of Health. No further injuries or deaths occurred.
Crew aboard the modern container vessel had reported the fire on board on the evening of Sunday, February 12, 2017, while the ship was about 30 nautical miles South-West of Cape St Francis.
Port of Ngqura Harbour Master Captain Thulani Dubeko and Ngqura Principal Officer, Captain Ian Renders, boarded the vessel to assess the situation and to act in an advisory capacity to the Master of APL Austria. Dubeko then granted permission for the vessel to be docked alongside berth D103 within the terminal for firefighting efforts to continue.
Dweba-Kwetana said there had been continuous environmental monitoring of air and water quality during the operation to ensure minimum impact on the marine environment.
Further investigations will determine the cause of the fire. Surveyors will assess the vessel for sea-worthiness and carry out any repairs before she is able to set sail from Ngqura to her next destination.
Dweba-Kwetana also thanked Port of Ngqura clients and stakeholders for their understanding and co-operation during the episode.
AIS Vessel Type: Cargo
Deadweight: 72,807 t
Overall length x breadth: 295.18 X 40 m
Year built: 2007