A hazmat team from Xtreme Projects prepares to investigate the containers which washed ashore near St Francis after the recent storm, (Kevin Kelly, Xtreme Projects)
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Wallace Du Plessis, News24
Cape Town â€“ The containers which washed ashore near St Francis Bay this week were inspected and checked on Thursday by a hazardous materials (hazmat) team.
People living along the coast had been warned of potential dangers and not to tamper with the containers, because the contents are unknown.
Kevin Kelly of Xtreme projects inspected the beached containers earlier on Thursday in the company of South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) officials during an on site meeting to decide on what action needs to be taken.
The seals on the containers are still intact and looked clean, said Kelly.
“There does not appear to have been any leaks. There is no odour.
“All the hatches and covers have been double sealed and tagged,” he added.
Kelly added that the containers seem to be empty, but the ship’s owners will be required to indicate what the previous contents was.
Kelly says the containers are spread over about 12km of beach.
The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre confirmed that in total five containers, one of which was found washed ashore near to the Gamtoos River Mouth on Tuesday, were washed off the deck of the Chinese ship Anguan Gjing, which was sailing from Durban to Nigeria.
The containers were torn off the ship in heavy seas, between Port Elizabeth and St Francis Bay.
Maritime navigational safety warnings were broadcast by Maritime Radio Services warning of the navigational hazard to shipping in that vicinity.
On Wednesday police located a further three containers. The remaining container is either still adrift at sea, or it may have washed ashore at a remote location, the NSRI said.
The owners of the Anguan Gjing have been “issued with a directive, in terms of section 18 of the Wreck and Salvage Act, requiring them to immediately put in place a plan, which requires the approval of South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), to remove all the cargo both ashore and afloat emanating from the vessel.
Captain NT Campbell of Samsa says that in the event that the owners fail to react to the directive, Samsa will initiate the steps to mitigate the dangers and recover costs from the vesselâ€™s owners.
Kelly says the Xtreme projects team will search for the fifth container on Friday.
They hope to get the go-ahead from the ships insurers on Saturday to remove the containers.
The police are monitoring the situation and keeping people away from the beaches.