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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Race to pump oil off SA ship
Aerial view of stricken Jolly Rubino freighter
The stricken ship is threatening to break up
Salvage workers are resuming the pumping of oil from the ship that went aground off the east coast of South Africa in mid-September.

The Jolly Rubino, a freighter carrying hazardous chemicals, is still aground near the St Lucia Wetlands reserve - a designated World Heritage site.

Bad weather and a fire aboard the ship have interrupted efforts to transfer the remaining oil from the wreck to other ships

Wildlife home
Saint Lucia is a sanctuary for:
Hippos
Crocodiles
Pelicans
Flamingoes
Estuarine fish
Mangrove forests

But the operation to pump fuel out of the ship's tanks is now being speeded up because of fears that the Jolly Rubino will break up.

Smit Salvage, who are running the pumping operation, say they are trying to pump off about 800 tonnes of oil.

On 18 September, salvage experts abandoned attempts to refloat the ship.

The decision was taken after the fire on board had spread to the engine room and cracks in the ships hull had widened.

Booms have been put in place in an attempt to prevent oil from coming ashore.

Smit Salvage said most of the chemicals aboard had been washed ashore or consumed in the fire that raged aboard the ship, according to the Reuters news agency.

Weather fears

Although most of the oil which had already spilled into the sea has been washed to the south of the St Lucia Wetland area, conservation manager Richard Penn-Sawers is still worried.

"That ship is breaking up. There is some urgency to get the oil off. There is still a huge threat," he said.

He warned that the mangrove swamps would be ruined if oil got into the ecosystem.

Map of South Africa showing location of Saint Lucia Wetland Park

It would not only kill the mangroves, but also the fish and birds that live among them, he said.

Reuters reported that since it ran aground, containers from the ship have been washed into the sea and have turned up on beaches south of where the ship is stranded.

The containers were carrying fridges, cotton and wine.

The Jolly Rubino ran aground about 11 kilometres (6 miles) south of the Unesco-recognised wetlands.

Once the ship ran aground, the sand around it became streaked with heavy fuel oil, and larger patches of oil floated towards the shore.

However, the winds and tides carried the slick away from the Saint Lucia area and only small amounts of oil are reported to have reached the shore south of the heritage site.

See also:

16 Sep 02 | Africa
17 Sep 02 | Africa
15 Sep 02 | Africa
05 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
22 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 01 | Middle East
11 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
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