Lately, marine specialists direct the attention to the South African Port of Durban, which is believed to be unsafe for ships after the recent groundings at the harbour entrance.

The incidents have been additionally investigated after the groundings have become more frequent since September 2014.

The most recent incidents were the grounding of MV Pacific Quartz, which touched the north breakwater and this to MV ER Elsfleth, which touched bottom in early December. Both grounding incidents further intensified the concerns regarding the safety in Durban Port.

According to the marine insurer company Skuld, when the container ship ER Elsfleth ran aground near the harbour, it became clear that there appeared to be a sandbar forming across the port entrance.


All grounding incidents in the last few years are investigated by the Durban’s port authorities, however, as Skuld informed, the most probable cause for the incidents relates to lack of proper dredging of the entrance channel and the removal of silt from the South breakwater.

“The harbour master is expected to publish a report shortly on the issue of dredging as there may have already been a number of previous groundings in the port. As a result of these groundings, the port reduced the under keel clearance in Durban by 30 cm as reported in a previous loss prevention notice dated 30 September 2014,” Skuld said.

As the marine insurer company stated, dredging could be a port safety issue, especially if it is systematic, as could the build-up of silt and cargo residues at berths.

Skuld is giving recommendations to ships’ management to be extra vigilant, especially if they navigate ships with drafts in excess of 10 m.

The company additionally commented:

“It will be a question for the facts of each individual case as to whether a port safety issue arose or whether another factor is in play. While frequency of an incident alone is not a determining factor, the repeat occurrence of an event linked to the same underlying factual issues may indicate that there is a systemic problem. System failures can mean there is a port safety issue, although again it will be necessary to consider each incident on its own facts.”