The 260m-long CSCL Hamburg ran on to Woodhouse Reef, between the Sinai coast and Tiran Island, on New Year’s Eve.

Ship moved from Red Sea reef

1 February 2010

A cargo ship which grounded on Woodhouse reef a popular diving area in the northern Red Sea has been refloated and towed away. The 260m-long CSCL Hamburg ran on to Woodhouse Reef, between the Sinai coast and Tiran Island, on New Year’s Eve. There were no injuries, no leakages and no lost deck containers.

Assessors for the Hong Kong-flagged vessel decided that the ship, which remained stuck fast at the bow, was salvageable.

It was lightened forward by the repositioning of some of its cargo, hauled off by tugs and taken to Eilat in Israel for repair.

Damage to Woodhouse Reef consists of a swathe of destroyed coral some 25m long and, reflecting the ship's beam, 30m wide.

Pieces that tumbled down the steep edge of the reef have destroyed other corals to a depth of about 45m.

The Ras Mohammed Park authority may fine the vessel's owners for the damage caused, but there is relief that the impact was relatively limited.

"A few metres either way and it could have taken out dive boats and killed divers, not to mention causing massive environmental damage all around," John Kean, a Sharm El Sheikh-based PADI and TDI diving instructor and author of ss Thistlegorm".

"Although that patch of reef may never be the same, we should count ourselves lucky that it was not a huge disaster.

"Very few people dived that particular side of Woodhouse Reef anyway, as it was normally exposed to wind and weather, making it less than ideal for daily boats."

In the short term, more people than before are visiting the site, out of curiosity. But according to Kean, the "finer points of Woodhouse remain untouched and unaffected by the ship's collision".

Ship wrecked on popular diving reef

2 January, updated 6 January, 2010

A large cargo vessel has gone hard aground on Woodhouse Reef, in the northern Red Sea.
The 260m-long, Hong Kong-flagged CSCL Hamburg hit the reef, between the Sinai coast and Tiran Island, on the morning of New Year’s Eve, while en route to Singapore.

Diving operators and others are relieved that, so far, there appear to have been no leakages from the hull.

Damage is reportedly limited to the bow area, but could be severe as the ship ran on to the reef at a speed of about 20 knots. There were no injuries to crew or loss of cargo.

Four salvage companies are reported to be planning to retrieve the 50,500-tonne ship. The first step will be to removal its fuel and shift a number of forward-stowed containers aft.

The extent of damage to corals on Woodhouse reef has yet to be assessed, and the diving community waits to learn what impact the grounding will have on diving in the area, in terms both of any salvage operation and of damage done to the Woodhouse reef.

John Kean, a Sharm El Sheikh-based PADI and TDI diving instructor and author of the book SS Thistlegorm, saw events unfold from a dive boat some way off, before moving in for a closer look.

“The ship passed the first reef, Jackson, at 10am and instead of continuing past Gordon Reef, the last of the four reefs in the Tiran Straits, it went between the middle two reefs, Woodhouse reef and Thomas reef,” he told Divernet.

“The gap here is less than 80m. The ship, with a beam of 32.3m, struck Woodhouse Reef just 50m from its end but went hard on to the top by a distance of around 25m.”

After the grounding, Kean and his companions overheard VHF radio communications between the ship’s 36-year-old captain and officers aboard two Egyptian Navy patrol boats sent to assess the damage.

The captain said that no fuel or oil leakages appeared to have occurred, and that pumps were at work to deal with water ingress which was limited to the bow area, due to the ship’s watertight compartments.
Kean later learned that, according to early reports, the ship deviated when its third officer, temporarily in charge of the bridge, turned to port to avoid a small craft.

It was thought that the officer either over-steered the vessel or underestimated its ability to turn back on to a safe course. The Straits of Tiran are popular with scuba divers coming out of Sharm El Sheikh, for the scenic drift diving that can be had in the vicinities of Woodhouse reef, Jackson, Gordon and Thomas Reefs.

The grounding of the CSCL Hamburg comes soon after the loss of two diving vessels in the area.

An Egyptian liveaboard, Coral Princess, sank in open water near Jackson Reef in late November, with the loss of two diving guests from Spain.

This was followed in mid-December with the loss of Emperor Fraser, one of the Emperor Divers fleet, on Dunraven Reef, near Sharm El Sheikh.

The CSCL Hamburg is a nine-year-old vessel. Research by Kean has established that the grounding is its second major incident within two years.

“On the fifth of March 2008 the ship struck the Chinese ship Lian Hua Feng in the South China Seas, sending four of its containers crashing down on to its bow and damaging the anchors,” he said.

“Navigational error was blamed as a result of VHF radio use to ascertain the intentions of the other ship.”


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