Crew Abandons Cargo Ship Amid Severe Weather off South African Coast

The crew of a Panama-registered general cargo ship abandoned their vessel off the South African coast due to severe weather conditions. The South Africa Maritime Safety Authority received a distress signal and dispatched rescue vessels. The crew, consisting of 18 Filipino seafarers, was rescued and the abandoned ship was left listing precariously. The incident raised concerns about navigating the Cape of Good Hope during winter storms.
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The crew of a Panama-registered general cargo ship abandoned their vessel early on Monday after it took on a severe list in heavy weather off the South African coast. The region is currently experiencing strong cold fronts causing widespread damage and raising concerns as vessels reroute around the African cape. The South Africa Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) received a signal at 0300 local time from an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) coming from the cargo ship Ultra Galaxy. The ship, 408 feet (124.5 meters) in length, was approximately 60 nautical miles west of Doring Bay on the west coast of South Africa north of Cape Town.

Vessels in the region were diverted to provide assistance, including the bulk carrier Fivos, the containership Rio Grande Express, and the fishing vessel Malachite. Weather conditions at the time included a 12-knot wind and seas running 16 to 20 feet. The crew of 18 Filipino seafarers aboard the Ultra Galaxy had entered a life raft as the cargo ship listed precariously. The Japanese-owned vessel, built in 2008, was en route from Malaga, Spain, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The crew was rescued by the FV Malachite and transferred to St. Helena Bay.

Following the incident, SAMSA dispatched two rescue tugs to the area to attempt to tow the vessel. The nature of the cargo and the current status of the vessel remain unknown. The Western Cape region was recently hit by a fierce winter storm, with heavy winds, rain, and snow causing damage and power outages. Concerns have been raised about the harsh winter conditions ships may encounter while sailing the Cape of Good Hope routing during the height of the winter season in South Africa. Maersk issued an extreme weather warning for the South African Coast, advising vessels to seek shelter and alter course to avoid the impending severe weather near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape region.

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