THE bad weather at the weekend has spared the Eastern Cape coastline from a potentially damaging oil slick from a container ship heading around the coast of South Africa to Lagos, in Nigeria.
The vessel, identified as the Conti Hong Kong by South African authorities, is en route from Colombo, in Sri Lanka.
The Conti Hong Kong’s owner and its insurers have been fined R150000 by South African maritime authorities over the oil slick.
It was spotted on Thursday by a South African coastguard aircraft which photographed the container ship trailing a long oil slick off the Eastern Cape coast.
Maritime authorities said yesterday the high winds and turbulent seas at the weekend had, fortunately, dispersed the slick out at sea.
This followed concerns that South Africa lacked protection from major environmental disasters such as oil slicks from international vessels, with the Transport Department yet to finalise access to the International Oil Pollution Fund, which would save taxpayers a fortune in the event of oil pollution.
SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) spokesman Captain Peter Kroon said the oil had been dispersed by the winds which lashed the province at the weekend.
"The ship passed East London on its way to Lagos on Thursday and did not stop anywhere in South Africa.
"By Friday, the oil spillage had been dispersed into the sea by the strong winds and rough seas. The spillage did not cause any damage to the Eastern Cape’s beaches,” he said.
Kroon said Samsa did not know yet how much oil had been pumped out of the ship.
The vessel was spotted by the coastguard aircraft "discharging oil from its bilges” 14 nautical miles off Hamburg, south of East London, on Thursday.
Last month, two separate incidents almost caused an oil slick near Cape Town. One involved a fishing trawler and the other a 250m bulk carrier with 80000 tons of iron ore, which is still anchored in False Bay.