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Naufrage du MV SMART le 19 août 2013

MV SMART capsize Richards Bay 19082013 (33)Ce qui est arrivé au vraquier SMART est la hantise des autorités portuaires : Un naufrage devant l'entrée du port. Aussi impensable que celà puisse paraître, le navire a subi une avarie majeure sur sa structure quelques minutes à peine après avoir quitté le port de Richards Bay en Afrique du Sud, rempli de sa préciseuse cargaison de charbon.

Et il n'aura fallu que quelques heures, balloté par la houle, le vent, et les vagues, pour que le navire ne se brise net en deux parties, laissant hébaïs les spectateurs venus assister au déferlement des vagues sur les jetées.

Cet accident n'est pas rarissime pour les vraquiers. Il en est de nombreux qui se sont brisés net en plein océan et dont on n'a plus jamais entendu parler. Il faut reconnaître que les efforts supportés par les structures de ces navires, tant au chargement qu'en navigation, sont de nature à fatiguer le plus que de raison et accélerer son vieillissement.

Ce phénomène est également connu sur les portes-conteneurs, avec le récent exemple du MOL COMFORT, navire relativement jeune, et qui a sombré en mer d'Oman il y a quelques semaines après s'être brisé en deux parties.

Au delà de la fatigue des structures, ce nouveau naufrage pose également la question de la course à la rentabilité et aux économies. A l'image du TK BREMEN, le commandant a fait le choix de quitter le port de RICHARDS BAY alors que les conditions météorologiques n'étaient pas optimales et auraient pu justifier de décaler de quelques heures le départ, la houle et les vagues à la sortie du port étant suffisamment importantes pour mettre en péril la navigation et le navire (l'enquête confirmera ou infirmera ce point soulevé notamment sur le site "gcaptain" par un internaute (voir la citation en fin d'article).

Ce cas pose également la présence du pilote à bord, ce dernier semblant également avoir quitté le bord quelques minutes avant le naufrage.

Quoi qu'il en soit, Fortunes de Mer suivra également ce nouvel évènement au travers d'une nouvelle page (ici) et sur laquelle vous trouverez toutes les informations concernant ce navire et de nombreuses photos, cartes, etc...


Citation de l'internaute Izak sur Gcaptain

The politics of wrecks
MV Smart ,a Cape size coal carrier, 173 m long and 43 m wide, with a draught of 17,4 m ran aground and broke up on 19 August on exiting the Port of Richards Bay.
The channel depth is 22 m and extends to sea for 5 NM due east from the port. Both wind and current cross the channel diagonally.
With a tidal range of 2 m one would want to sail such a vessel at spring tide.
The 20th was a blue moon spring tide at 15h03. High tide on the day was at 14h43 with a channel depth of 22 m which means that in flat water there would have been 4,6 m clearance.
Weather data for the day showed a 4,8 to 5,2 m swell with an 18 second period. The wind had died to about 12 knots but was gusting to 30 knots about 6 hours before.
Marine pilotage is compulsory for all ships in Richards Bay.
Wikepedia tells us that "A pilot is a mariner who guides ships through dangerous or congested waters, such as harbours or river mouths. Pilots are expert ship-handlers who possess detailed knowledge of local waterways.
The master has full responsibility for safe navigation of his vessel, even if a pilot is on board. If he has clear grounds that the pilot may jeopardise the safety of navigation, he can relieve him from his duties and ask for another pilot or, if not compulsory to have a pilot on board, navigate the vessel without one. Only in transit of the Panama Canal does the pilot have the full responsibility for the navigation of the vessel."
Earlier in the day a marine pilot stated that no ships should leave the port until weather conditions had improved.
Despite this warning, the vessel in question was allowed to sail.
If the owners of the vessel were to insist on sailing despite the pilot's directive, one would expect the port to require indemnities.
Does the port not have the final say? What would the implications be if an incident could cause the blockage of the port? The ship is still moving in the swell and could come apart completely. Even now, if either the bow or stern of the stricken vessel breaks away and floats into the channel on a North Easter in a high tide and then capsizes in the channel, one would have a blocked port. In this instance, this situation could it be possible for the stern of the vessel if it does not have to drag a lot of cargo wreckage with it? The situation should perhaps be monitored very closely.
One wonders why it sailed under such adverse conditions?
The cost to ship owners is about US $18,000.00 a day at a berth and about US $ 75,000 to run. Delays in deliveries could attract penalties in some cases. Who knows if this financial motivation could have been the reason for sailing the vessel, as the motivation for that decision is not being disclosed at the moment.
National Port Authority issued a statement that there was no TNPA pilot on board at the time the vessel ran aground.
This is curious as the vessel was just approaching the most dangerous part of the port, namely the bar at the harbour mouth, where the waves are normally the highest.
Therefore the pilot should have still been on board. Why did the pilot leave before the vessel had exited the channel, as just beyond the harbour entrance there are swells and currents that run diagonally across the channel and require further caution?
Either way the port has to answer for the disaster, because if there was indeed a pilot on board, the vessel should have exited safely. The fact is that the pilot was taken off when he or she should have been on board the ship to guide her safely through the channel. Who was the pilot? At this stage that person's identity is also not being disclosed to the media.
After the ship struck the bottom, another pilot was put on board to direct the tugs that were summoned in an attempt to push the vessel off the channel's north shoulder.
Taking the questionable weather conditions into account, should the tugs not have remained attached to the ship and guided her out?
It has become a common practice for pilots to disembark from vessels well before the vessel reaches the harbour entrance and tugs routinely disengage once they have guided the vessel away from the berth and it is underway.
The media was told that there was engine failure. Well, ship's engines are built not to be reliable considering the long journeys undertaken, so there must have been a serious reason for it to fail. Before sailing, the vessel would have been inspected by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), and it is doubtful that they would have let a vessel with a dicey engine leave the port.
A pilot and tug engineer told me that the vessel bottomed out and then lost steerage and power. Well, there you have it. Rudder bent and then the prop jammed or stalled the engine. Maybe a bent drive shaft or broken couplings. Yes the engine did fail. So did lots of other things by the look of it.
An oil spill could endanger the only grove of all three types of mangrove around and the endangered humpback dolphins of which there are only 300 left on this coastline and only 2 families in the bay.
Media report that the owners have undertaken to cover the costs for any clean-up.
My guess is that this case would probably result in a reported piece of precedent if a dispute as to who is responsible ever went to court.
No, I think this will never see a court of law as an inquiry into what happened and who is to blame. It looks like a deal has been brokered between the parties and we are left with denials, propaganda, misinformation and the politics of wrecks. Well if that works....
Thankfully, no life was lost and there seems to be no oil spillage and all the infrastructure to control a spill is already deployed.
The management of the crisis has been excellent so far. What we heard on the radio was a very competent pilot directing the tugs. One tug master sounded stressed and perhaps a bit seasick. Well, 5m swells and not being accustomed to accompanying ships offshore...
Bottom line is that to see such large vessel twisted in two is both shocking and very sad. Embarrassing for the port? Maybe. The captain and crew no longer have a ship. All their personal belongings have been taken off.
A mountain of some pretty high grade coal is probably lying just off the north breakwater.
Someone reported that they want to tow the vessel to cold water where the oil can solidify. Bunker fuel is like tar at zero degrees Centigrade. So they want to tow it to the southern ocean instead of just to port where they can control things and pump it all out, never mind salvage the engine, and other equipment?
Anyway, the initial navigational math is readily apparent to anyone with a modicum of common sense as is the business of pilotage responsibility. Why then admit that there was no pilot on board? To technically make the master of the ship liable? Well it still implicates the port. Baffling.
Like I said. The politics of wrecks.... Not simple. Or is it?


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