South Africa Investigates Vessel Breakdown at Biggest Coal Port

South Africa’s maritime safety authority is investigating damages caused after a ship carrying coal ran aground at the Richards Bay port in the northeast of the country.

The MV Smart buckled, broke in two and was partly submerged yesterday afternoon after loading 147,650 metric tons of coal at the port’s terminal for the fuel that morning, the National Ports Authority, a unit of utility Transnet SOC Holdings Ltd., said in an e-mailed statement. The crew members were airlifted from the vessel yesterday, it said.

“Three salvage crew -- one from the South African Maritime Safety Authority and two from marine services group Subtech -- are on-board” to make an initial damage assessment, the NPA said in an e-mailed statement today.

The Richards Bay facility, about 170 (107 miles) northeast of the port city of Durban, is the largest export coal terminal in the world, handling more than 80 million tons of the fuel annually, according to its website. The country is Africa’s biggest coal producer.

Smart is the second bulk carrier to run aground on the nation’s coast in two weeks. Kiani Satu washed onto the shore on Aug. 8 and leaked oil, polluting the coastline near Knysna, 250 miles west of Cape Town.

Shipping operations at the Richards Bay returned to normal today after being suspended due to adverse weather conditions shortly after the vessel ran aground, the NPA said.

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