On 14 June 2000, the bulk carrier Treasure was en route from Brazil to China when she was caught in bad weather and suffered structural damage. The commanding officer requested permission to enter the Port of Cape Town in order to resolve the technical difficulties. Access to the port was denied. On 20 June, the shipowner and SAMSA inspectors (South Africa Maritime Safety Authority) came to inspect the vessel currently maintained 40 nautical miles from the coast. The conclusion from this visit was that there was no risk of shipwrecking and that the vessel could be brought closer to the coast to be inspected by divers.
On 21 June, the vessel was in the port of Table Bay and the shipowner was ordered to remove the bunker fuel as quickly as possible. The following day, as the shipowner had taken no action, the SAMSA decided to tow the Treasure out to sea.
The convoy headed east, but on 23 June the Treasure sank near Robben Island, an island which used to be used as a prison, releasing 1,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil. 200 tonnes of fuel oil were pumped out of the wreck and 100 tonnes remained inside. This spill was a disaster for wildlife: 20,000 African penguins were living on the island, accounting for 35% of the worldwide population of this species.
Considerable means were deployed to clean up the affected area as quickly as possible. The penguins were moved 800 km away by helicopter while their environment was cleaned up, before they returned by themselves. The cost of this operations was 300 € per penguin.
On 2 July, another colony of 56,000 African penguins was also moved away when the pollution drifted towards Dassen Island, where the colony was living. It took the quickest penguins just 19 days to cover the 800 km separating them from their original habitat.
Creation of a Special Area
The total cost of the damage was estimated at over 1.5 million Euros. As a result of this disaster, the international maritime community created the Southern South Africa Sea Area.
Date: 26 June 2000
Location: South Africa
Accident area: off Cape Town
Cause of spill: damage to ship
Product transported: 140,000 tonnes of iron ore
Type of pollutant: bunker fuel oil
Quantity spilled: 1,000 tonnes of bunker fuel oil
Ship type: bulk-ore carrier
Date built: 1983
Owner: Good Faith Shipping
This designation will prohibit or severely restrict the dumping
of oily waste in this area. This length of coastline protected is
1,500 km long by 35 to 135 nautical miles wide. This new measure
was approved by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC),
a regulatory body of the International Marine Organization (IMO).
The IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) noted that the area in question comprised 12 unique endangered or internationally protected animals, such as the African penguin. This “Special Area” will come into force in February 2008.
Last update: July 2007