Saga of the Sealand Express
On the 18th of August with the storm clouds hanging over Table Mountain
and a northerly gale force wind blowing over Table Bay, Cape Town faced
one of its worst storms this winter.
Normally ships in Table Bay double up their anchor ropes and batten down
their hatches when one of these storms arise.
Each year however the Cape winter finds a victim at sea and deposits the
hapless ship on some rocky shore along our coastline.
Scarborough Bay where the Ikan Tando ran aground.
Last year it was the “Ikan Tando” which was washed ashore at Scarborough
on the rocky shores of the Southern Peninsula.
As luck would have it there were no oil spills and salvors managed to
pull the luckless ship off the rocks and drag it out to sea
where it was eventually scuttled.
The Sealand Express being blown ashore
This year it was the turn of the “Sealand Express” which after a
number of warnings from the port authorities failed to take action
and found itself blown from its anchorage onto the sandy shores
of Table Bay near Sunset Beach.
The Sealand Express lying in the waves
The ship is lying beam onto the weather and the large storm waves
have been battering it and forcing it ever closer to the beach.
There has been much concern as to the cargo on board.
It has come to light that there is uranium on board, a radioactive mineral
used in the production of nuclear power and weapons.
There is also a 100000 litres of tequila and a
container full of Amarilla bulbs on board.
If this lot should land up on the beach we could have
Amarillas coming up half cut.
Fortunately the ship is of sturdy design and has withstood the ravages
of the storms showing no evidence of breaking up.
The Sealand Express shortly after having run aground
with the heavy seas breaking over her
Salvors have been hard at work removing most of the 3700 tons of
fuel oil aboard and are busy unpacking the containers with the
uranium and are removing it by helicopter to safer storage facilities.
A number of attempts have been made to pull the ship off the
sand but to no avail. The ship has sucked itself into
the sand and will not budge.
Dredger pumping sand
A dredger has been employed to remove the sand around the ship
and to open a channel into deeper water so that the ship can be pulled free.
On Sunday the 1st of September during the spring tide salvors
managed to turn the ship and drag it about
a 150 metres from where it came ashore.
Some of the traffic on the day the ship ran aground
Due to large crowds and problems with traffic the authorities
have closed all the access roads to Sunset Beach and have also
established an 800 metre no go zone around the ship.
People wanting to see the ship have to park a couple of kilometres
away and walk along the beach to get close to the stranded vessel.
Three of the tugs attempting to refloat the Sealand Express
On Sunday afternoon a second attempt to pull the ship free was
made and four tugs were attached to the vessel,three directly
and the fourth to one of the other tugs.
The whole scene seemed so peaceful as the tugs all facing out to sea had their
propellers churning up a froth behind them and were going nowhere.
It was quite strange when half way through the afternoon one
of the tugs suddenly raced forward and then stopped, its cable to
the ship having broken.The other three tugs continued to churn merrily away.
When the tide started dropping at about 5.30 pm it was obvious
that the ship on the sand would be going nowhere.
The salvors are now continuing to dredge the sand from around the
ship and are also removing as much of the cargo from the
containers on deck as they are able to with the weather
conditions that are being experienced at present.
On the 10th September 2003 three tugs once again attempted to pull the ship
off the sand but were unsuccesful.
Notice how ship has been turned
Overnight the ship was turned so that it now faces Signal Hill
where it faced Blouberg before.
On the high tide at 4.00am on the 13th September the tugs managed to move
the ship 250 metres out to sea where it once again ran aground on a sandbank.
Sealand Express stuck on new sandbank with dredger attempting
to move some of the sand
At about 3.15 pm on the 13th of September with the tugs The Pacific Brigand
and the Pacific Worker at the end of the towlines the sand suddenly let go
of the ship and she began to move out to sea.
Sealand Express starting to move forward
Sealand Express moving freely now
As the ship moved out of the surfline on her way to deeper waters
she sounded her foghorn and every one on the beach applauded.
For those of us who had been watching the saga from the beginning it
was an emotional moment and brought a tear to the eye
and cold shivers down your spine.
Sealand Express further out in the bay
Sealand Express enjoying her freedom
Sealand Express reaches the deep water
Sealand Express leaving Table Mountain behind her
Sealand Express with the tugs moving towards the middle of Table Bay
The tugs took a while but answered the Sealand Express' foghorn with a
blast of their own once they were sure that the ship was really off the sand.
The beach after the Sealand Express was pulled free.
The residents at Sunset Beach must have sighed a huge sigh of relief when the
ship was pulled free. For about four weeks their suburb had been inundated
with visitors who had trampled their gardens and the sand dunes on the beach.
The Sealand Express was inspected in the bay by divers and was found to have
very little damage. Once she was declared safe she was dragged into
Cape Town harbour where she is at present having her cargo unloaded.
Thereafter she will go into dry dock for a proper inspection before she
continues her voyage.
As her rudder has been damaged it has been decided to
tow the Sealand Express to Durban for repairs.
The salvors and all who were charged with the job of pulling the
Sealand Express off the beach at Milnerton must be congratulated.
Not one drop of oil was spilled onto the pristine beaches and there
was no pollution or loss of life to man or beast.
A JOB WELL DONE!!!!
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Sealand Express aground in Table Bay