The accident with MV Smart happened on August 19 at night. The vessel broke up and approximately 50,000 tons of coal went into the sea. The rescue operation continued seven weeks. The fuel was drained, another 10,000 tons of coals went overboard and all movable fittings and pollutants were removed.
MV Smart, 230 m. vessel, was loaded with approximately 1,900 tons of fuel and about 150,000 tons of coal when it left the Richards Bay Coal Terminal. The place where it was grounded was 250 m away from Alkant Strand beach, with sea depth more than 1,000 m, to the south-east of Richards Bay.
The crew accommodations, the hatches for storing coal and the tanks for fuel were at the aft section. The rescue tug Smit Amandla was sent on Wednesday from Cape Town to tow out the aft section on Saturday night with Dyneema cable -a strong, non-stretching material which floats also known with the name Spectra.
According to the east coast executive manager of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Captain Saroor Ali, the rescue operation was supported by the weather conditions. The main danger was from a fuel spill due to the fact that in the region there are very important ecosystems like the iSimangoliso Wetland Park, the World Heritage Site, the uMlathuze Sanctuary, the uMfolozi and uMlalazi estuaries and that why the first phase of the operation was to remove the fuel.
During the operation, between 1pm and 6 pm, the movement of all ship had been stopped.
The second phase of the salvage operation was to prepare the vessel to be towed away. All movable parts were removed, including the lifeboats. The diesel oil was siphoned out and the pollutants were stripped out.
Captain Saroor Ali also thinks that it is more demanding to save the forward sections. It is flooded and that turned the coal into slurry which demands using a submersible pump for pumping it out.
MV Smart had split near the 6th and 7th hatches of the nine hatch vessel. Now the forward part of the vessel remains. There are several coal hatches and the engine room.
According to Captain Ali at the moment of the accident hatches one, two and tree stayed above the water. At the moment above the water are only a hatch and a half.
The situation is constantly changing. For this phase, tenders had been invited. In the next few days the name of successful bidder have to be known.
Captain Ali stated that they want the result of this salvage phase have to be the same as with the aft section – the entire forward section have to be removed and nothing should remain.
The cost of the salvage operations are not yet calculated. The Greek-owned vessel, MV Smart, had a full insurance.
Now, at the beach there are lumps of coal. They should be removed when the harbour is dredged.
Regular samples of the water are taken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The reports are interim and according to Captain Saroor Ali soon they will have the final report on the quality of the water.