Japanese fishing vessel stuck near Walvis Bay
A Japanese registered fishing vessel, MVF ‘Fukuseki Maru’, went aground on 22 March near Durissa bay, South of the Ugab river mouth, about 200 km from Walvis Bay, lying 2 km from the beach, the Ministry of Works and Transport said.
Although the vessel was not in immediate danger, the ministry ordered the evacuation of all 24 foreign crew members who were on board.
Julius Ngweda, spokesperson of the ministry said that when the vessel was grounded some bottom fuel tanks were breached and, as a result, Marine Gas Oil (MGO) leaked into the sea. The risk to the marine and coastal environment is low because the Marine Gas Oil (MGO) is a light concentrate, non-persistent fuel which will mostly evaporate and be dispersed naturally, especially in the sea zone/high energy area where the vessel is lying.
However, Ngweda added that the leakage has since been contained and no oil pollution has reached the shore.
“Due to the distance between the troubled vessel and the beach, fishing spots and recreational beaches adjacent to the vessel have not been affected by this incident. In fact, accommodation facilities and other local suppliers of goods and services are benefiting from the ongoing recovery operations,” Ngweda said in a statement released this week.
According to the statement, the vessel is fully insured and the owners have procured the services of a Japanese Salvage company, Nippon Salvage Company Ltd, to salvage the vessel with the assistance of local experts.
The Japanese salvage experts arrived in Namibia on 24 March while a specialized salvage vessel, SA Amandla, arrived in Walvis Bay from Cape Town on 25 March to try and pull the Fukuseki Maru off the rocks.
“Unfortunately, salvage efforts have not been successfully to date- mainly due to the rocky area on the bottom of the sea and the extreme sea state and weather conditions,” Ngweda added.
The engine room and other compartments including cargo holds are reported flooded, potentially affecting the 75 tons of frozen tuna on-board, however, pumps have been installed to control the flooding.
If salvage efforts fail, the owners and their underwriters could declare a constructive total loss, like the cost of salving the vessel would exceed her value. If this happens, the ministry added, the operation would transition from salvage to wreck removal, which will be confirmed by a Wreck Removal Order to be issued by the Minister of Works and Transport in terms of the Wreck and Salvage Act of 2004 and the Prevention and Combating of Pollution of the Sea by Oil Act of 1981.
“In conclusion, the Ministry of Works and Transport would like to re-assure the public that our marine and coastal environments are safe and clean. We will continuously review our flag, port and coastal state control measures in view of the evolving risk profile for Namibia as a promising regional maritime logistics hub,” Ngweda added.
In order to learn from this incident and to avoid recurrence, a suitably qualified person has been appointed to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident in terms of the applicable laws.
The appointed person will provide an assessment and review the circumstances surrounding the incident in accordance with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents. This investigation will focus purely on promoting maritime safety.