High alert for oiled birds following chokka boat wreckage

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Photo (from Sanccob) of Sikelela chokka boat breaking up at the entrance of the St Francis Bay private harbour this week.

 The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob ) Eastern Cape team remains on high alert for any oiled seabirds following the wreckage of the chokka boat, Sikelela, which ran aground on rocks at the St Francis Bay harbour entrance this week before being smashed to pieces by strong waves.

Sanccob asks the public to assist in monitoring the beaches over the next few days . The organisation said that during an inspection about 60+ White-breasted -and Cape Cormorants were found swimming and diving in the bay with no definite signs of having been affected by the spill. “This was a great relief to the Sanccob team, especially since the Cape Cormorants species are endangered. No penguins have been spotted,” a press release from Sanccob today, 30 August 2014,”  Sanccob said.

 Sikelela an aground on 27 August at about 7.30 am. The boat lost engine power as it entered the harbour and was swept onto the rocks as a result of breaking swells of 5 meters and a 10 to 15 knot westerly wind. Thirteen crewmen were pulled to safety but the 14 meter boat split in half by crashing waves and leaked diesel into the harbour.

 In its release Sanccob says it deployed its expert Oil Spill Response team to the scene and activated key volunteers in the surrounding coastal area to identify and alert its Cape St francis seabird rehabilitation centre of any oiled seabirds. Sanccob also engaged with South African Maritime Safety Authority and the Department of Environmental Affairs to assess the situation and plan for any affected birds.

Sanccob’s Oil Spill Response team found no sign of oil on the surface of the water in the harbour or on the open water outside the port. The rocks and surrounding areas were checked for signs of diesel and only a few small pools were found between the dolosses.

 “Extreme Projects, an oil spill management team, was commissioned to attend to the diesel leakage and debris from the vessel. They installed an oil and debris boom to prevent the hazardous material from entering the harbour, while the diesel outside the port dispersed quickly as a result of the rough seas.” Sanccob said

 Port_Spill_Debris©SANCCOB_EC-2

Photo above shows  the last traces of the Sikelela  boat before it completely disintegrated; and below photo of Sikelela being pounded against the rocks at the harbour entrance.

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The vessel sank and broke into pieces around 3 pm on Wednesday afternoon and all the diesel dissipated. Nicky Stander, Sanccob’s Rehabilitation Manager, said.

The Port Master, Johan Barnard, confirmed there is no diesel left at the wreckage site and therefore poses little risk to the surrounding seabirds.  

Barnard also told St Francis Chronicle that the situation was under control and his team at the Port is monitoring the area closely for any signs of sea life affected by the wreckage.

(edited by Bev Mortimer)

Read first article when the Sikelela ran aground and the bravery of the St Francis Bay NSRI and port teams by clicking on this link below:

stfrancischronicle.com/2014/08/27/chokka-boat-runs-aground-at-st-francis-bay-harbour/

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