V.Ships crew help rescue Juvenile Humpback whale

Thursday, November 07 - 2013

A V.Ships Captain and his crew recently assisted in the rescue of a trapped baby whale while their ship was docked at Duncan Docks, in the Port of Table Bay, Cape Town.

The Juvenile Humpback whale, thought to be less than a year old, was discovered to be trapped between the quayside and the MV EXPLORER.

Captain Jeremy Kingston and his crew alerted the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) at 23h40 on Sunday 27 October.  Mike Meyer, of the Department of Environmental Affairs Oceans and Coasts, was sent to investigate and TNPA officials were dispatched. Rescue tug boats were placed on alert.

Mr Meyer found the young whale, approximately 8 meters long, was disorientated and gradually wedging itself into where the ship was pressed hard against the quay side.

The National Sea Rescue Institute, a WC Government Health EMS rescue squad, the Police Dive Unit, Harbour Police and the Police Sea Borderline unit all joined the rescue effort after numerous attempts to coax the creature back into open water using a pole and torch light failed. The baby whale remained trapped and unable to turn around while continuing to nudge against the tyre fenders.

It was agreed that the MV EXPLORER herself would have to be moved aside to make space for a rescue effort.

Two TNPA tug boats, MERLOT and PINOTAGE, and TNPA harbour pilot Yolisa Tshangela, along with TNPA shore crews, worked with the crew of the MV EXPLORER to carry out the massive task of moving the 24300 ton, 590 foot ship, into the middle of the harbour.

NSRI Table Bay and Sea Borderline Police both launched their sea rescue rigid inflatable boats (RIB) but the whale stubbornly refused to budge despite the best efforts of the rescue crews.

Police Diver Douglas Jones volunteered to get into the water and physically push the whale away from the side. Working in conjunction with the two rescue RIB's, Police Diver Jones managed to gently push the whale out towards the Port exit. Efforts were then begun to re-berth the MV EXPLORER.

Remarkably, after attempting to return to the quayside the whale suddenly began to follow the tug boat MERLOT which Mr Meyer said the distressed juvenile whale may have mistaken for its mother. The tug boat was instructed to head out to sea. It then led the whale out to open waters.

The rescue operation concluded at 04h10 on Monday, 28 October.

Mr Meyer is cautiously optimistic about the young whale's survival since it appears to be separated from its mother.

Thanks have been expressed to Captain Jeremy Kingston and the crew of MV EXPLORER and all services involved have been commended for participating in this rescue operation.