The Frotamerica ran aground on sand and rock less than 50 metres off-shore, close to the mainland beach, about 16 nautical miles north of Lüderitz within hours of becoming adrift.

The Frotamerica, Photo courtesy Dr Jean-Paul Roux

The 193 metre, 35,000 ton vessel was ripped from it’s moorings on Friday 15 February, after a strong south-westerly wind broke it loose from a tug boat which reportedly was on it’s way from Brazil to India to sell the ship for wreckage material.

Attempts to retrieve the large vessel and tow it back to the Lüderitz harbour were aborted due to the difficult weather conditions. Some mystery surrounds the unmanned vessel, which broke loose from with-in the port limits in Lüderitz harbour. It had been there for more than a week and it is reported that following a crew change, the new captain of the ship vanished.

The main concern for “Ludertiz-buchters” (as the residents of the town are called) is that an inspection revealed that the vessel was taking on water in the engine room and that the bilges were full of dirty water topped up with oil from tanks in the ship. Reports that the ship had sunk in recent days were dismissed. The biggest fear is that the ship might start breaking apart.

The area, which is in danger of being polluted by the ship, is called Anichab. It is very close to Staple Rock and Ichaboe Island. Ichaboe Island is regarded as one of Namibia's most important bird islands and marine mammal sanctuaries.

Staple Rock is an important seal colony and the area was proclaimed as a Marine Protected Area in a landmark conservation move in 2009. Ichaboe island is home to the largest Cape Gannet colony in Namibia. The Cape Gannet is an endangered species with only six colonies left in the world. Three areas are in South Africa and three in Namibia.

The Namibian population has been reduced by 94% in the last 40 years. The Bank Cormorant is also endangered. Ichaboe Island was once the largest colony of this species with about 5,000 breeding pairs. The population crashed there in the mid-1990's from about 5,000 pairs in 1993/94 to about 200 pairs now.

The Cape Cormorant, which is still today our most abundant seabird, is to be reclassified as endangered. The reason for this is that its population has declined by more than half in the last 30 years or so.

The African penguin was recently listed as an endangered species on the Red Data List. Also known as the black-footed penguin, or jackass penguin for its loud braying call. Endemic to the coast and off-shore islands surrounding southern Africa. In the 1990's the total population of African penguins was estimated to be around 2 million.

The 2010 population census revealed that the African penguin population had been reduced to 21 000 breeding pairs. The 2010 population census revealed that the African penguin population had been reduced to 21 000 breeding pairs.

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