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Two seafarers remain critical as repairs to damaged cargo ship are completed

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Repairs to the Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship damaged by an explosion on Friday night are now completed, the Gibraltar Government confirmed on Monday, as two seafarers injured in the blast remained in critical condition in Seville.

The bulk carrier CSSC Cape Town will remain in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters while an investigation continues into the cause of the blast, which was in the vessel’s forecastle where the anchor mechanism is housed.

Due to where the explosion took place, the vessel was kept on the east side of the Rock until repairs were carried out.

The Captain of the Port, Manuel Tirado, told GBC on Monday: “The repairs were done on the eastern side and due to the fact that there was an explosion, we couldn’t take a risk, neither the port or the captain of the vessel, to drop anchor as the explosion originated in the area of the anchor.”

Mr Tirado would not be drawn on the causes of the explosion until the investigation was concluded.

The explosion occurred late Friday and the following day technicians boarded the vessel to assess the situation and repair the anchor mechanism, Mr Tirado said.

“Late evening on Saturday the vessel was able to anchor on the western side, they are taking bunkers and there is an investigation ongoing,” Mr Tirado said, adding that once the investigation is concluded the vessel will be free to move on.

As a result of the explosion, a total of four crew members sustained injuries, and two were treated on board.

Two seafarers who suffered serious injuries were taken to St Bernard’s Hospital and were later transferred to a specialist Seville hospital unit after sustaining 40% and 25% burns.

“I have no further update, but what I can say is that they were in a critical condition when they left and they are still in a critical condition,” Mr Tirado said.

On Friday night the Port of Algeciras offered to assist with the evacuation of the injured crew members via helicopter, but the decision was taken by paramedics to take them to St Bernard’s Hospital, where they are being treated.

The vessel will now wait for additional crew to arrive to fill the posts of those who were injured.

The CSSC Cape Town entered British Gibraltar Territorial Waters loaded with 112, 365 metric tonnes of coal, loaded at Curtis Bay Coal Terminal in the United States.

The GPA said that this cargo does not represent a danger to the vessel or to other vessels in the immediate vicinity, adding that the cargo itself is classed as non-dangerous under the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic.

On Friday night, the Royal Gibraltar Police attended the vessel and began an investigation, but the following afternoon no foul play was suspected.

The CSSC CAPE TOWN is flagged in Hong Kong. It was built in 2020.

It carried 19 crew members, all of whom are Chinese nationals.

Its last port of call was Baltimore in the United States of America and its next port of call is listed as Port Said in Egypt.

“The Gibraltar Port Authority extends its gratitude to all agencies, authorities and individuals who have assisted in dealing with this incident,” the GPA said.

“The GPA also extends it gratitude to the Port of Algeciras for its kind offer of assistance in dealing with the casualties sadly involved in this incident.”

On Sunday, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the UK told reporters it has been in contact with the relevant authorities in Gibraltar and Spain.

“We attach great importance to the report that the explosion of the Cape Town freighter caused four Chinese crew members to be injured,” the Chinese Embassy spokesman said.

“We contacted the competent authority of the local Government of Gibraltar as soon as possible, and requested to spare no effort to treat the injured and to find out the cause of the accident as soon as possible.”

“It is understood that the main body of the ship was undamaged and the accident caused four Chinese crewmembers to be injured, two of which were slightly injured and stayed on board for treatment.”

“The other two crew members were seriously injured and sent to a hospital in Seville, Spain for rescue.”

“We will continue to pay close attention to the progress of the incident and work with the Chinese Embassy in Spain to assist relevant companies in their follow-up work.”

For its part, the GSD said it regretted the injuries sustained by four crew members of the CSSC Cape Town.

Damon Bossino, Shadow Minister for the Port, was in close contact with his counterpart, the Minister for the Port, Vijay Daryanani, and other port operators during Friday night and over the weekend so as to apprise himself about the unfolding developments.

Mr Bossino said: “For now, we should all take comfort from the fact that there were no fatalities.”

“Our port and other authorities are to be thanked and congratulated for having responded efficiently with cooperation from the Spanish side and as a result those crew members who were unfortunately injured are now receiving adequate specialist medical attention.”

The Opposition said it will continue to monitor developments and urges the Government to ascertain why it was that an allegedly newly-constructed vessel, such as the CSSC Cape Town, should have suffered such an incident, raising questions in relation, not least, to health and safety.


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