The Turkish bulk carrier “Seli 1” ran aground off Cape Town, having dragged her anchor and lost engine power whilst anchored in Table Bay. Laden with a bulk cargo of coal (in excess of 30 000 tons), she could not be salved and, to compound matters, the owner of the vessel abandoned her and her cargo and it further transpired that the owner did not have insurance policies in place to cover the costs of removal of the wreck and her cargo.
The cargo having been abandoned, it was purchased by a speculator for a nominal value, subject to the provision that the speculator had to arrange for the cargo to be removed from the wreck and taken ashore.
The cargo removal operation was a complicated procedure: it involved mechanical grabs removing the cargo from the holds of the vessel – which were flooded, the loose coal then being carried on a conveyor belt on the vessel, the bagging of the cargo, the loading of the cargo onto a barge alongside the casualty, the towing of the laden barge into Cape Town harbour where the bagged coal was landed on “the hard”, stockpiled and then loaded onto road trucks and then conveyed by road to an inland depot for final distribution to end users.
We acted for the salvage company sub-contracted by the speculator to carry out the cargo removal operation. A dispute arose regarding non-payment of the fees and disbursements due to the salvors. Our office then brought the matter to a head by arresting the remaining cargo laden on the vessel, as well as the cargo “lately laden” on the vessel, ie the bagged coal stockpiled on the quay side in Cape Town harbour. The arrest of the cargo effectively brought the matter to a head and the dispute was settled on a commercial basis on terms advantageous to our client.
Proceeding by rubber duck to the casualty in order to serve the admiralty arrest papers on the cargo on board the vessel
Sheriff of the Admiralty Court, Mark Withers, serving the arrest papers on the cargo stockpiled in Table Bay harbour by symbolically attaching the papers onto one of the bags of coal