Alarm bells have gone off in the case of an unmanned ship which has become stranded a few kilometres north of Lüderitz
in southern Namibia
Stranded Ship Frotamerica. Photo copyright Dr Jean-Paul Roux
The ship, Frotamerica, which has been firmly stuck in the sands a few metres off-shore could sink or break apart from the assault of the rough ocean, and expose the pristine area which is one of Namibia’s most important bird areas
, to oil pollution as well as wreckage which poses a danger to sea life there.
Within hours of breaking loose, the immense vessel ran aground on sand and rock less than 50 metres off-shore, close to the mainland beach, about 16 nautical miles north of Lüderitz.
The area which the ship is posing a pollution risk to is called !Anichab and is very close to Staple Rock and Ichaboe Island, situated within the only Marine Protected Area in Namibia.
Ichaboe Island, situated close to the vessel, is one of Namibia’s most important bird islands and marine mammal sanctuaries. Staple Rock is an important seal colony and the entire area was proclaimed as a Marine Protected Area
in a landmark conservation move in 2009.
Otavi wreck in Spencer Bay near Mercury Island within the Marine Protected Area. Photo: Amy Schoeman
The hulking 193 metre, 35 000 ton vessel was ripped from it’s moorings on Friday 15 February, after a strong south-westerly wind broke loose from a tug boat which reportedly was on it’s way from Brazil to India to sell the ship for wreckage material.
Attempts to retrieve the large vessel and tow it back to the Lüderitz harbour were aborted due to the difficult weather conditions.
Some mystery surrounds the unmanned vessel, which broke loose from within the port limits in Lüderitz harbour. It had been there for more than a week and it is reported that following a crew change, the new captain of the ship vanished into thin air. Various rumours are circulating about his unsolved disappearance.
The main worry for “Buchters” (as the residents of the town are sometimes affectionally called) is that an inspection during the past two days revealed that the vessel was taking on water in the engine room and that the bilges were full of dirty water topped up with oil from tanks in the ship.
Reports that the ship had sunk in recent days were dismissed. The biggest fear is that the ship might start breaking apart when the next big swell smashes against it’s frail skeleton.
- Ichaboe island is home to the largest Cape Gannet colony in Namibia
- The Cape Gannet is an endangered species with only six colonies left in the world.
- Three are in South Africa and three in Namibia
- The Namibian population has been reduced by 94% in the last 40 years
Cape Cormorant by Pompie Burger
- The Bank Cormorant is endangered.
- Ichaboe Island was once the largest colony of this species with about 5 000 breeding pairs
- The population crashed there in the mid-1990’s from about 5 000 paris in 1993/94 to about 200 pairs now.
- The Cape Cormorant which is is still today our most abundant seabird, is to be reclassified as endangered.
- The reason for this is that its population has declined by more than half in the last 30 years or so.
African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)
- African penguin was recently listed as an endangered species on the Red Data List.
- Also known as the black-footed penguin, or jackass penguin for its loud braying call
- Endemic to the coast and off-shore islands surrounding southern Africa.
- In the 1990’s the total population of African penguins was estimated to be around 2 million
- The 2010 population census revealed that the African penguin population had been reduced to 21 000 breeding pairs.
Photos of Frotamerica copyright of Jean-Paul Roux.