The 230m long, Panama-flagged bulk carrier 'Smart' with a full cargo of coal ran aground within a few hundred meters of South Africa's major coaling port of Richards Bay, and the crew (with pilot) were taken off by helicopter as the vessel's hull began to split apart in the heavy swell.
Three Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) tug boats were in attendance of the outbound coal cargo ship 'Smart' on a shallow sand bank adjacent to the Port exit channel where they were attempting to pull the vessel free after she had grounded there in very rough seas and 10 meter high swells, when NSRI assistance was sought.
NSRI Richards Bay volunteer sea rescue duty crew launched sea rescue craft Spirit of Richards Bay and NSRI Helicopter Rescue Unit rescue swimmers were dispatched to stand-by at the TNPA helicopter pad.
The structural integrity of the ship became compromised and the Captain ordered his ship to be abandoned.
The TMNP helicopter transported a NSRI rescue swimmer to the ship. The rescue swimmer was hoisted onto the ship and he assisted crew to be hoisted, using under arm hoist, into the helicopter and all 23 crew of the ship, which includes a ship's pilot, were hoisted into the helicopter in relays and they were brought safely ashore where Netcare 911 paramedics and NSRI personnel received them.
The rescue helicopter flew 4 sorties to evacuate all crew safely off the ship.
SAMSA (South African Maritime safety Authority) officers are en route to investigate and begin salvage evaluations.