The agency said its environment and disaster response crews were mobilized at the harbor near KwaZulu-Natal to put necessary measures in place to protect the coastline from pollution from the Panamanian ship the Smart.
“[A]t 1300 (hours) today the vessel's fuel tanks were still intact, however, several cargo hatches have sustained damage resulting in the release of some coal cargo,” the DEA said.
“A monitoring plan is currently being prepared to investigate the potential impact of coal and coal dust pollution on the surrounding marine environment.”
While Richards Bay has returned to normal operations after being idled late Monday following the incident, government officials said their immediate priority was to close the Mhlathuze Sanctuary, located south of the wreckage, from any possible oil spills.
“The sanctuary is considered important, from both conservation and social perspective, because it is a breeding and nursing area for important fish species, and it provides a home to more than 20,000 birds of various types,” officials said, adding the area also provided important life-supporting and recreational benefits.
In the meantime, the DEA is working with local authorities and said it would respond as quickly as possible to any oil spills that might affect nearby beaches, and would remain “on high alert” should conditions deteriorate.
Transnet National Ports Authority officials also told local news outlets, including the Mercury, that the vessel had broken apart between hatches six and seven and was not blocking the facility’s entrance.
Apart from where the vessel had broken apart, there were no other signs the ship had taken on water elsewhere, it said.