Stricken tanker under tow to Durban

Aerial view of Durban port. Credit: NPA

Yuan Hua Hu, a crude tanker in distress off the Eastern Cape of South Africa, is being towed by the tug Pacific Dolphin to Port of Durban for repairs, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) said on 30 May 2020.

The tug Siyanda will also be escorting both vessels to Durban. It is planned for the tow to proceed to between 19 km and 37 km offshore. The tanker owner and insurers are finalising all the requirements to enable Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to berth the tanker on arrival. The weather is not expected to have any threat to the tow while en route to Durban and the estimated time of arrival for the tanker should be on 3 June 2020.

The emergency response was launched last week, when Yuan Hua Hu reported it had suffered engine failure off Port St. Johns in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The multidisciplinary rescue team included the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries, African Marine Solutions (AMSOL), Smit Marine South Africa, P&I Associates, National Sea Rescue Institute, Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), and SAMSA first responders.

The 160,000 gt vessel required one tug from Durban and one tug from Cape Town to respond to the rescue effort in order to prevent it from running aground.

Pacific Dolphin is an AMSOL substitute vessel for the Department of Transport emergency towing vessel, SA Amandla, which was deployed to the middle of the Atlantic recently to tow the abandoned fishing vessel, Kostar, to Cape Town. Kostar suffered a rudder and mechanical failure 4,074 km southwest off Cape Town. Due to the exceptionally bad weather conditions in the South Atlantic, the Kostar crew had transferred to a sister ship, leaving the fishing vessel adrift.

SAMSA said South Africa had experienced an unprecedented increase in maritime casualties since March, more so than any other previous year during the same period.

The MRCC conducted 59 medical evacuations, which is a 150% increase over the same period last year. Besides the Kostar casualty, SAMSA responded to two near groundings, one container ship fire, one fishing vessel grounding, and the infamous attempted murder of two stowaways.

“This, once again, shows the urgent need for South Africa to have a modern multi-resourced maritime rescue response and monitoring capability to respond to any type of emergency and pollution incident along the South African coast,” said a representative of SAMSA.