Haunting first images emerge of the Baratz wreck in it’s watery grave – scroll down to see YouTube Video.
At 14h00 on Thursday, 26th November the NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) following a request for urgent assistance from the 29 meter steel Crayfish boat Baratz reporting to be taking water with no motor power and adrift at sea South East of Cape Recife, Port Elizabeth, with 25 crew on-board in rough sea conditions of 4 to 5 meter swells and up to 20 knots South Easterly winds.
All crew were rescued.
When the Baratz went down it had on board kilometres of 20mm rope, crayfish traps, the normal trappings of fishermen at sea, 70 tons of diesel fuel on-board as well as 30 tons of bait – making for a shark feast of note.
Shattering to environmentalists and people directly affected by this tragedy was the seemingly lacklustre approach to securing the site and actually having a plan to ensure that no collateral environmental damage would ensue. It appears that authorities dithered for 7 days before taking their first decisive step by declaring the wreck a No Go area.
In the meantime diesel continued to seep from the wreck, ropes just under the surface threatened to snare unwary seamen, boats leaving the port were not warned to steer clear of the marine hazard and the perlemoen seeding programme came to an abrupt halt.
At the time Environmentalist and Dive Tour Operator, Rainer Schimpf said on 27 November 2015; “… it is a shame that the authorities don’t seem to care or want to take responsibility for preventing this potential environmental and maritime disaster from inflicting more damage on our sea-life and coast as the oil and diesel continues to pollute Algoa Bay. From the air you can clearly see the spill drifting towards Evans Peak – close to St Croix and the penguins.”
Tom Swartz, Commander of the Tactical Task Force is busy with an abalone seeding programme off of the Cape Recife Nature Reserve and has a target of seeding a million sprats for 2015 which had to be put on hold until the wreck of the Baratz is made safe. According to Tom; “The slightest hint of oil in the water will suffocate the sprats and, if the combination of an east south east current with an east wind occurs, then the seeding programme could suffer a serious setback.”
Attempts by MyPE to get an official release from SAMSA to help publicise the exclusion zone were ignored. Reaching out to Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism it became apparent that they had not been informed of the potential for a disaster and, most importantly, of measures being taken to contain any damage. the question needs to be asked; “Would it be viewed as criminal if the authorities did not alert the public to potential dangers from the wreck or if the increase in predators from 30 tons of bait in the area led to a fatal shark attack?”
But, a recent inspection of the wreck by Rainer and Silke Schimpf of Dive Expert Tours and Sardine Run PE has revealed that the seepage has stopped and now the focus turns to the successful and safe recovery of oil and diesel and all loose equipment on board.
The images you see are the first pictures ever taken of this vessel underwater.
Rainer says; “If the Baratz stays at sea it could, once she’s cleaned, be a way to show the world how an environmental hazard is converted into a pristine reef with coral growth taking place, sharks and rays around the sandy bottom, additional breeding grounds for fish and lobster and another spectacular dive spot for avid scuba divers.”
According to Rainer the mission is now to make the wreck of the Baratz a “positive” and environmentally safe tourism asset for Port Elizabeth and Algoa Bay.
Related Links: Fishing boat sinks off Cape Recife | We are in danger of destroying our HOPE SPOT | Video – Diesel escaping from the wreck of the Baratz | Baratz Diesel and Rope Flotsam | Baratz wreck is a ‘No Go No Dive’ area