Another cargo ship in distress, 23 crew airlifted at Richards Bay – photos

A coal cargo ship ran into difficulties at the Richards Bay port today, 19 August, and its 23 crew members were airlifted to safety by helicopter with assistance from the NSRI duty crew. 

Picture Norman Rautenbach / NSRI

The ship, Smart Panama, became lodged onto a sandbank early afternoon at the entrance of the Richards Bay port. At 4 pm today after the structural integrity of the ship was compromised, the Captain ordered his ship to be abandoned.

At 2.36 pm NSRI Richards Bay volunteer sea rescue duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority to assist three Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) tug boat in attendance at Smart Panama, which is about 230 meters long. The tug boats were attempting to pull the vessel free of the sand bank. It appears that in very rough seas of 10 meter swells, the ship was pushed onto a sand bank while exiting Port to go to sea.

“Our NSRI Richards Bay duty crew launched our sea rescue craft Spirit of Richards Bay and NSRI Helicopter Rescue Unit rescue swimmers were dispatched to stand-by at the TNPA helicopter pad,” the NSRI said. “The TMNP helicopter transported a NSRI rescue swimmer to the ship.


“The rescue swimmer was hoisted onto the ship and he assisted crew to be hoisted, using under arm hoist, into the helicopter. All crew of members, including a TMNP ships pilot, were hoisted into the helicopter in relays. They were brought safely ashore where Netcare 911 paramedics and NSRI personnel received them.”

Picture by Norman Rautenbach / NSRI.

The rescue helicopter did four sorties to evacuate all crew safely off the ship. No injuries are reported.

SAMSA (South African Maritime safety Authority) are en route to investigate and begin evaluations to save the ship.

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