Cape Town - Barge Margaret  Jacobsdal

Barge Margaret
wrecked at Jacobsbaai

The barge Margaret lying on the rocks shortly after having run aground

This week I visited the small west coast village of Jacobsbaai about 200 kilometres north of Cape Town. It's a small village built around a small bay from which the village gets its name.

In June 2009 Jacobsbaai hit the headlines when the towing barge Margaret landed up on its doorstep after the towrope from the tug Salvaliant broke during a winter storm raging along the Cape's renowned Cape of Storms coastline.

Unfortunately the barge could not be reconnected to the tow rope and was driven ashore by the gale force north winds and ran aground on the rocks about 300 metres from the homes lining the shores at Jacobsbaai.

The barge Margaret being hammered by the rough seas shortly after having run aground.

On board the barge Margaret was a cargo of 12 river barge hulls which were built in China and were destined for Rotterdam where they were to be used on the rivers in Euro.

Unfortunately for the owners these barges will never arrive and they stand to take a large loss if insurers or the tug owners do not pay up for the loss. In fact Leo Boer the owner of the barges has spent his entire life savings, pension and all on trying to revive his ailing shipping company only to see his dreams end in disaster at Jacobsbaai.

Lying on the rocks the barge Margaret looks like a large open parking garage but from the front one can see the 12 smaller barges on its decks.

Some of the barges on board have been damaged beyond repair while others are still intact. Salvors who have been aboard the wreck to do surveys have noted that welds and sea fastenings holding the cargo and the decks together have begun to come loose.

To keep the remaining barges intact and the decks secured they would have to be repaired which of course would cost a lot of money.

Over the past nine months since the Margaret ran aground not much has happened. The salvors have not been able to remove the smaller barges so to get rid of the eyesore on the doorstep of Jacobsbaai it was decided to dynamite the upper decks so that the height of the wreck could be reduced.

Looking rather worse for wear after being blown up to separate the decks

The plan was to loosen the transport ties of four barges on the upper decks and then blast the dry docks they were being carried in off the wreck. This would allow the four undamaged barges to slide off into the sea and float away. The plan apparently worked as the dry docks are now lying in the sea on the sea side of the wreck and the barges that slid off into the sea were removed by tugs. Unfortunately for Leo Boer the insurers have take over the barges and they will be sold to defray expenses.

A close up of what is left after the explosion.

It has since been decided that since the wreck has been reduced in height to leave the rest of it to the mercy of the sea. Winter is on its way again and soon the Cape of Storms will be experiencing some of the awful storms we are renowned for. It is hoped that the sea will batter the wreck and break it up forming an artificial reef in the area.

Approaching Jacobsbaai this is what you see

Thankfully this wreck although polluting the shoreline with its bulk and destroying the views of the ocean from the village did not destroy the sea life in it immediate vicinity as it had no fuel oil on board.

It would not only have been a disaster for the coastline but would also have put paid to the efforts of the abalone nurseries closeby where abalone are bred and nurtured until they can be commercially exploited.

The last bit of the barge left behind on the rocks.
Thanks to Rob Parkinson for the photo

Update: I have recently found out that Barge Margaret has not been completely removed from the beach where it ran aground. There is still a large portion of the hull lying on the rocks close to the beach.

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Cape Town - Barge Margaret