Poison gas ship’s chemical cargo to be dumped off the west coast
About 1,500 tonnes of chemicals aboard a bulk carrier will be dumped in the sea off the West Coast, the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said on Thursday.
The chemicals, the nature of which has not been disclosed, will be dumped 250km from land in water more than 3km deep.
The cargo is aboard the NS Qingdao, which left Durban harbour in November when it started emitting toxic fumes.
The vessel was escorted to a safe anchorage off St Helena Bay so it could ventilate its hatches offshore.
More than 1,000 tonnes of its cargo have been removed and Samsa said it had obtained an emergency permit from the department of forestry, fisheries and the environment to dump the remainder at sea. This is expected to happen by March 15.
“The vessel has no obvious structural damage and she will return to the closest port after the dumping operation is complete and her cargo is stabilised. An investigation will be conducted to determine the reason for the cargo reaction,” Samsa said.
“Structural specialists will conduct an assessment to ensure that the integrity of the vessel is intact before allowing her to sail to her destination.”
Samsa said the dumping operation depended on the weather and the “highest levels of safety standards” would be maintained.
The 57,000dwt NS Qingdao was built in 2011 and sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands. It arrived in Durban from Gwangyang, South Korea in mid-October and was evacuated about a month later.
Samsa acting chief operations officer Capt Vernon Keller said at the time: “Samsa directed the vessel to sail to a protected anchorage under the escort of the tug Umkhuseli.
“The vessel has a full team of salvors, chemical experts, hazmat teams and other emergency personnel on board to manage the operation safely following defined emergency protocols.
“The cargo will be discharged into skips, chemically neutralised and landed ashore at an approved dumping site in a safe and controlled manner. The vessel poses no immediate threat to the marine environment and humans.”
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