[Debate] (Fwd) Indian Ocean tragedies: MT Phoenix to drown; KZN North Coast to be mined
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue Aug 30 15:54:02 BST 2011
(As for the Phoenix - background/pics here:
http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/default.asp?11,61,3,2365 - "It failed to comply
with almost every international standard and should not have even been
allowed to set sail from Nigeria. However, he revealed that cases like
this had appeared to become a pattern as the economic climate suffered"
... and ... “It’s not just the valuable prawn and fish nursery. If
mining went ahead, it could affect the marine ecology of the entire
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 4:24:37 PM
Scuttle plan for grounded tanker
August 30 2011 at 03:24pm
The tanker Phoenix, which ran aground on the rocks at Sheffield Beach
and has attracted crowds of curious bystanders since July 26, is
destined for a watery grave.
It will disappear below the waves by the end of the week. Maritime
officials are preparing to refloat it, then tow it almost 80km out to
sea before sinking it.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) plans to involve the
South African National Defence Force in the scuttling effort, which
could see the vessel used as target practice in order to sink it,
possibly as deep as 2 000m.
The operation, which included clearing the ship of fuels and other
environmentally dangerous substances, has already cost about $4.25
million (R29.8m). This excludes the direct costs incurred by Samsa and
the legal costs to trace the vessel’s owners. The overall cost will only
be known once the Phoenix has been successfully scuttled.
Yesterday, Sobantu Tilayi, the executive head at Samsa’s Centre for
Shipping Services, said the Phoenix was initially to have been refloated
However, the tide and swells which, combined, have to be enough to take
it off the rocks, are only expected to be at optimum levels towards the
end of the week.
Once it is off the rocks, the 125m steel vessel will be pulled, in an
almost upright position (because of flooding in the engine room), about
78km out to sea, south-east of Durban.
The nearest marine protected area will be Aliwal Shoal. However, this is
Samsa’s best-case scenario as the vessel could sink before it reaches
this point as it will take on water while being towed. If this happens,
the Department of Environmental Affairs has indicated three other points
closer to shore at which the vessel can be safely sunk.
Captain Saroor Ali, Samsa’s regional manager for the east coast, said
the Phoenix would be pulled very slowly, at about two or three nautical
miles an hour, to prevent it flooding too quickly or breaking up.
A skeleton crew will be on board during the transportation, but in the
event of severe flooding, the crew will be urgently disembarked. The
trip from Sheffield Beach to the Phoenix’s final resting spot should
take about 24 hours.
If efforts to refloat the Phoenix are not successful, maritime officials
will “go back to the drawing board” and see where more money can be
obtained for further operations.
“Even if we can move her 100m then we could just leave her there and
wait for the waves to break her up after 10 years. She poses no danger
to the environment but would just have to be an ugly neighbour.”
He also explained that the Phoenix had been in an “appalling” condition
when it ran into trouble off East London at the beginning of July. It
failed to comply with almost every international standard and should not
have even been allowed to set sail from Nigeria.
However, he revealed that cases like this had appeared to become a
pattern as the economic climate suffered, adding that there were many
more like it in South African waters in the winter seasons.
The difference with the Phoenix was that it was in view of the public
and had been brought to its attention.
Although there had been offers to buy the vessel and sell it for scrap,
Samsa decided to sink it as the costs for a potential buyer to keep it
afloat while cutting it up for scrap would outweigh the metal’s value.
KZN coast mining fears
August 29 2011 at 04:25pm
tony.carnie at inl.co.za
THE FUTURE of the marine ecology of the entire northern KwaZulu-Natal
coast could be placed in jeopardy by plans to scour the sea for heavy
minerals and gemstones, say critics of the proposed venture.
The latest Zululand application for mine prospecting, for the mouth of
the Tugela River, has triggered alarm bells about the safety of a rich
fish and prawn nursery ground.
The application has raised fears that the discovery of mineral deposits
could lead to huge undersea trenches and opencast mining operations,
disrupting a unique, complex sea food chain linked to the marine ecology
of the entire northern KZN coast.
The application to prospect in a block almost 50km long and 22km wide
has been lodged by Fast Pace Trade and Invest 58 (Pty) Ltd.
According to geologist Ian Basson from the Western Cape, he and
University of KwaZulu-Natal geology lecturer Ron Uken, Durban geologist
Damian Smith and black empowerment mining services group Siyakhula Sonke
Corporation are shareholders, with 25 percent each.
Siyakhula’s chief executive is former Anglo Platinum transformation head
Fred Arendse and the business development director is Champ Tekiso, a
former assistant manager at PwC. Siyakhula also has interests in Redpath
Mining and Sekgwa Mining Services.
Apart from gems such as garnet, the company is looking for heavy
minerals such as rutile, ilmenite, zircon and iron ore, which are also
mined nearby by Richards Bay Minerals and Exxaro.
If mining went ahead, it would be the first underwater mining venture
for heavy minerals off the South African coast, although similar mining
is done off the Australian and South American coasts.
The company does not have any record or experience in offshore mining,
although some of its members have done extensive geological research and
prospecting work for companies such as Richards Bay Minerals. They have
also been involved in exploration or research at the Rossing uranium
mine in Namibia, and gold and diamond mining in Tanzania and Botswana.
The application is restricted to prospecting rather than mining, but if
large quantities of heavy minerals or gemstones were found, this could
trigger a major controversy about the short-term benefits of mining as
opposed to the long-term health and productivity of a nationally
important marine environment.
Rudy van der Elst, director of the Oceanographic Research Institute in
Durban, said the prospect of undersea mining on the Tugela Banks was of
“It’s not just the valuable prawn and fish nursery. If mining went
ahead, it could affect the marine ecology of the entire North Coast.”
Environmental consultants acting for Fast Pace advertised the
application two weeks ago and want written feedback before Thursday.
Van der Elst said the institute had asked for the company’s
environmental management plan, but had not seen it yet.
“We have indicated that the notice period is too short. You can’t have
such a tight schedule, particularly when we have not been provided with
adequate information to comment properly.”
Van der Elst said he was unaware of similar ventures off South Africa.
Depending on the methods, mining could stir up clouds of sand and
sediments that could have serious effects on the marine environment.
Bianca McKelvey, conservation manager of the Wildlife and Environment
Society, noted that the Tugela was among the country’s biggest rivers
and deposited vast quantities of sand, sediment and food nutrients into
The muddy environment was an ideal nursery for prawns and other creatures.
“Research shows that it is also a nursery for a larger group of species
which go all the way up to Mozambique and beyond.
“In a worst-case scenario you could end up with trenches and an opencast
mine underwater… the removal of large volumes of sand could… wipe out
Basson, also principal director of Tect Geological Consulting in
Somerset West, said these fears were “premature and alarmist”.
He said only 3 percent of prospected areas were eventually mined globally.
Prospecting would involve desktop studies and the collection of sediment
samples and low-energy seismic tests. Mining would be “largely benign”.
“It is pretty much what RBM and Exxaro are doing on shore. It is not as
if there are coral reefs. It is basically an underwater dune field.
Asked if Fast Pace was acting or planning to act for a large mining
company, Basson said: “We have not really thought that far ahead.”
A Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission data search suggests
that Basson and Smith are the only two directors of the company.
More information about the Debate-list