31 October 2012

Namibian Research Vessel Runs Aground in Angola

THE Namibian research vessel Welwitschia Mirabilis ran aground on the south coast of Angola on Saturday while it was busy with an annual cross-boundary sardine survey.

According to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Ulitala Hivelua, information is still sketchy and and she would first have to get a report from the vessel's captain.

The vessel is expected to arrive at Walvis Bay today where damage will be assessed.

The Namibian understands from reliable sources that none of the 17 crew members sustained any injuries during the incident. They include about seven scientists from the National Marine Information and Research Centre (NATMIRC) in Swakopmund.

Sources explained that the vessel was busy conducting acoustic surveys of sardine stock – which is a cross-boundary stock – when it allegedly hit a sandbank. The area is speculated to have been at Tiger Bay to the far south of Angola, but this could not be confirmed.

“Communication is very difficult via satellite phone. All we know is that the vessel is on its way back to Walvis Bay. From here we'll assess the damage and get an incident report,” a source said.

It is also understood that the Namibian patrol vessel Anna Kakurukaze was in the area and was summoned to assist with the recovery of the Welwitschia, but speculation is that Namibian and Angolan fishing vessels may have refloated the research vessel before the Anna Kakurukaze could get to the scene.

According to sources, the vessel's sonar equipment should have detected the sandbank, but they added that sandbanks in the area are known to move. Also, the vessel does not normally go so close to the shore, sources said.

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