Fire-ravaged container ship still docked at Ngqura port

A tugboat sprays the APL Austria, which was forced to dock in the Port of Ngqura on Monday after a fire broke out on board Picture: Eugene Coetzee
A tugboat sprays the APL Austria, which was forced to dock in the Port of Ngqura after a fire broke out on board
Picture: Eugene Coetzee

The 280m container ship transporting hazardous material, including paint and gas, is still docked at the Port of Ngqura following an onboard fire that broke out three weeks ago.

The APL Austria is docked while mop-up operations continue.

The fire broke out below deck inside a cargo hold.

According to officials, the estimated damage to the ship will be in the millions of US dollars.

When the cargo hold caught alight, the ship was 30 nautical miles southwest of Cape St Francis.

The maritime rescue coordination centre directed the vessel to the port where firefighters and Transnet tugs, fitted with high pressure hoses, spent several days battling the blaze.

Yesterday, officials said no timeline could be given as to when the operation would be completed.

South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) technical adviser Captain Daron Burgess said the investigation was still under way and the cause of the fire had not yet been established.

“The vessel is still alongside and mop-up operations are still under way. There are approximately 62 containers remaining in [cargo] hold No 4 for discharge,” he said.

“Once the hold is safe for entry, fire investigators will inspect the hold.”

Burgess said the off-loading of the containers was weather-dependent and, on Saturday, operations had to be stopped due to howling winds.

Port manager Mpumi Dweba-Kwetana said the containers aboard the ship had been severely damaged and this was hampering efforts to retrieve the containers.

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