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Precis File
type A

18 May - 6 June 2009

Bulk carrier ‘Pine Trader’ was en route to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, with 220 tonnes of fuel onboard and carrying a cargo of 20500 tonnes of bagged rice when she suffered an engine failure off the coast of Cape Town.

On Monday 18 May, the Master of the ‘Pine Trader’ advised the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) that the vessel had lost main engine power and that there was flooding in the engine room.

Vessels ‘Smit Amandla’ and ‘Smit Lloyd 33’ immediately dispatched The ‘Smit Amandla’ was dispatched from False Bay and successfully connected up to the stricken vessel shortly after midnight on Monday, preventing her from running aground in the vicinity of Cape Infanta.

On Tuesday 19 May, SAMSA requested that MCM’s Inshore Patrol Vessel ‘Victoria Mxenge’ be dispatched to the casualty to standby and she took 12 non-essential ship’s crew from the ‘Pine Trader’ onboard. An additional 2 personnel and the ship’s captain have been flown off of the casualty.

Patching the stricken vessel SMIT Salvage has successfully contained water leakage in the engine room and the structural integrity of the vessel continues to be monitored.

On 23 May, a senior South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Surveyor and NDT Technician were taken out to the casualty and examined the vessel’s shell plating.

Initially the salvage tug ‘Smit Amandla’ had the casualty under tow. Subsequently the convoy safely entered the port of Cape Town, where she was redelivered to her owners.

source Final SAMSA Statement on the Pine Trader
type A
volume 0
dead 0

On the 18 May 2009, a Coastguard aircraft under contract to the Department of Environment Affairs spotted the Panamanian registered bulk carrier PINE TRADER stopped in the water some 30 miles east of Cape Agulhas. Contact was made with the Master who informed the aircraft that he had a small engine problem and would be underway in 30 minutes.

The Pine Trader had 400 tonnes of fuel onboard and was carrying a cargo of 20,500 tonnes of rice, destined for Abidjan. The vessel was built in 1977 and has a gross tonnage of 18,322 tonnes. The vessel’s managers were based in Croatia.

The situation was monitored by Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Cape Town. The standby salvage tug Smit Amandla, on contract to the Department of Transport and under the direction of SAMSA, was instructed to sail from False Bay towards the Pine Trader.

The Master advised MRCC that the vessel had lost main engine power and that there was a small hole in the engine room plating and flooding was continuing. The vessel subsequently lost electrical power and only the emergency generator was operational; this subsequently failed. It was estimated that the vessel would ground at the same time as the Smit Amandla would arrive on scene, in the area of Cape Infanta.

Negotiations were initiated with PetroSA, who released the tug Smit Lloyd 33 - on station at the ORCA oilfield - to steam to the Pine Trader as the vessel would arrive on scene prior to the arrival of the Smit Amandla. As the weather moderated and the rate of drift slowed, the Smit Amandla was able to attach a tow rope to the Pine Trader in the early hours of 19 May 2009. The Smit Amandla commenced towing the Pine Trader away from the coast.

The following morning a senior SAMSA surveyor, with a Smit salvage team, boarded the vessel. It became apparent that the hull had not cracked but had corroded, due to a lack of maintenance. It was also readily apparent that the vessel was in very poor condition and was not seaworthy.

A repair was designed so as to re-establish the integrity of the hull and work commenced immediately. The vessel was kept offshore amid fears that she may not survive the adverse weather being experienced.

When the vessel was within helicopter range it was decided to evacuate non essential crew members. DEA were requested to provide a patrol vessel to standby the vessel to mitigate any pollution should the vessel sink and also to act as a rescue vessel for the remaining personnel. DEA had a vessel present at all times until the Pine Trader was safely in port.

Negotiations were commenced with TNPA to allow the vessel into a port. Ten days later, due only to the excellent seamanship skills of the Master of the Smit Amandla, the vessel was ready to be docked - a subsequent heavy cold front had caused further concerns over the safety of the vessel. On arrival at the pilot station off Saldanha Bay, the swell conditions exceeded the parameters for a safe entry into port and the tow was ordered towards Cape Town. Two days later, on 31 May 2009, the vessel safely docked in the Port of Cape Town.

It was subsequently decided that the cargo of rice would be transhipped for onward carriage to its final destination. While the vessel was in port, a Smit salvage team was onboard to safeguard the vessel and the port. A US $ 7 million guarantee was raised with the vessel’s insurers to cover costs in the event that the vessel sank alongside and the wreck had to be removed or there were pollution cleanup costs. To mitigate this possibility all pollutants were removed from the vessel.

Early in the process the Joint Response Committee came to the conclusion that they were dealing with disreputable owners - the Master had seriously fractured his wrist and required surgery and owners initially refused to put up funds for the operation, the crew had not been paid for months, there was no food onboard and the costs of services rendered while the vessel was in port were not paid.

On completion of the cargo discharge and with debts mounting, the vessel was arrested and subsequently sold through the High Court for scrap. The Pine Trader left Cape Town under towage on 15 September and cleared the South African EEZ on 22 September bound for breakers in India.

SAMSA, as chair of the Joint Response Committee, wishes to acknowledge those parties who through their efforts ensured there was no loss of life, no pollution to the South African coast and that 20,000 tonnes of food was saved:

Smit Amandla Marine, executing the State’s standby tug contract; PetroSA; Department of Environment Affairs; National Sea Rescue Institute; Transnet National Port Authorities; The maritime legal profession; and Service providers who rendered commercial services.

Capt. NT Campbell Regional Manager: Southern Region

source DNS, 2009-144

Friday evening, 22 May 2009. Salvors have located the source of water ingress in the engine room space of the bulk carrier Pine Trader and continue to pump out the area. Smit Salvage divers were able to investigate the flooded engine room and salvors have advised authorities that a previously patched 2.5 m crack in the structure of the Pine Trader is leaking. Further, concerns about the condition of the 32 year old vessel's structure will be investigated today by SAMSA and Smit Salvage.

source CTX
type D

5 hold, geared bulk carrier.

Clearly, this was a horrible ship and worse owners. The Pine Trader had a terrible port state record. 8 detentions in 10 years, including 22 days in Houston 2007-07 and 20 days in Dartmouth, CA in 2003. Most recently, 24 deficiencies at Piombino 2008-12-17. The South African's main problem was keeping her afloat until they could get her to port. It appears they did a superb job.

Despite this, notice how Smit carefully refrains from making any comment on cause or the condition of the ship.

The Pine Trader's Class/Flag state status is a mystery. Equasis says she was registered in St. Kitts, and classed by the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping. But most of her certificates were supplied by the Intermaritime Certification Service, SA, a Panamanian brass plate. This is perhaps why the South Africans thought she was registered in Panama.

Despite the Pine Trader being in unseaworthy condition, despite her paperwork being an impenetrable mess, despite her owners not paying nor even feeding her crew, the Pine Trader was still trading.