Cargo Ship Grounds, Boxships Stopped Due to South Africa’s Bad Weather

cargo ship aground
Bulker Ultra Galaxy grounded Tuesday night after being abandoned during South Africa's bad weather (SAMSA)

Published Jul 10, 2024 4:16 PM by The Maritime Executive


Bad weather and high seas off South Africa are continuing to disrupt most shipping in the region with forecasters warning of more storms to come. Several of South Africa’s primary ports remain closed due to the high winds while an analysis shows the weather has brought container traffic to a standstill in the region. SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) also reports an urgent salvage operation is underway after an abandoned cargo ship washed ashore Tuesday night.

“We have a complete stop at the Cape of Good Hope for containerships – east and west,” said Fabrice Maille, Global Head of Shipping & Agriculture at LSEG Shipping Research. Their data shows that since Monday, July 8, no containerships have been passing the Cape which they note is adding to congestion and delays due to the diversions away from the routes through the Red Sea.

Senior Weather Analyst at LSEG Isaac Hankes noted that the waves off the South Africa coast coincided with a strong cyclone that impacted the region last Sunday, July 7, along with well below normal temperatures. Large parts of the coastal region experienced strong winds and heavy rain, with Hankes noting it was similar to conditions in June. 

“There is another cyclone likely to impact South Africa later this week,” warns Hankes before weather patterns could begin to moderate next week. Local forecasters are also warning that damaging waves will now also be reaching the east coast around Durban.

The Panama-flagged bulker Ultra Galaxy which was abandoned early on Monday continued to be tossed about in the heavy seas after it took on a severe list. SAMSA reports one salvage tug reached the vessel on Tuesday and was monitoring the situation when the vessel went aground late last night in a remote area on the coast known as Brand se Baal north of Cape Town. A second salvage tug departed Cape Town Tuesday night heading to the area with additional crew and equipment.

SAMSA is taking steps to prevent a large oil spill reporting the vessel is loaded with low-sulfur bunker fuel as well as hydraulic and other oils. They also determined that the vessel was carrying a cargo of bagged fertilizer. 

South African port operator Transnet also provided an update saying that three vessels are windbound at the Cape Town Container Terminal with the port experiencing high waves since Saturday. Another four ships were scheduled to arrive on Thursday while Transnet continues to monitor the port. One vessel is also windbound at the Port Elizabeth Container Terminal. The Ngqura Container Terminal at Gqeberha has been closed with its gates locked since Sunday.

Maersk had previously warned that it was anticipating delays for its vessels. It, like most major carriers, is diverting vessels around the Cape due to the security problems for the Red Sea routes.