The South African Transport and Allied Union (Satawu) says the level of safety and security is dropping in the country’s harbours. This comes after six people were killed and three critically injured when a fishing vessel caught fire at the Durban Harbour in Bayhead.

The incident follows a crash involving a truck which killed a driver at the port earlier this week.


Clean-up operations are under way with police and emergency services busy going in and out of the burnt remains of the vessel gathering evidence.

Eye witnesses say the six deceased who were trapped on the lower deck tried unsuccessfully to escape the blaze and the three injured managed to jump out of the vessel. Their bodies were found in the early hours of this morning.

An eye witness who wished to remain anonymous says he saw the flames coming out from underneath the ship.

“I was busy with my work when I looked up the fire was blazing full force people were running around trying to pull the water pump to try to extinguish the flames but the pump wasn’t strong enough to put out the flames. It wasn’t until the big fire truck arrived that they managed to control the fire. The fire went on for quite a while because when we knocked off from work late in the afternoon it was still blazing. It was stronger on the side that was near the water and it was coming from underneath the ship not on top.”

KwaZulu-Natal Satawu acting Provincial Secretary, Thulani Dlamini, says the vessel that caught fire was not in a state to be at sea in the first place.

“So, there are a lot of challenges that are going on and it seems to us like safety is becoming a secondary issue here. It’s no longer a priority. You can see from that vessel … take away the burning and ashes … you can see it was not in a state to sail in the first place. I think it was a risk even for it to be permitted to come here because you can see the state of it, that it was not supposed to sail. It’s rotten; it’s rusty. If it’s so rusty from the outside can you imagine how the engine room is.”

Police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo says they have opened an inquest docket . The cause of the fire is still unknown at this stage, however authorities are conducting an investigation.

“The cause of the death of the six is yet to be determined. The cause of the fire also is still yet to be determined. Investigations are currently underway at this point in time we will be conducting an inquest to determine the circumstances of the cause of death and once that has been established we will await the court’s decision to see if the case will be escalated perhaps to a more serious charge perhaps even being culpable homicide.”

Naidoo says at the moment the nationality of the six deceased is yet to be determined but others are believed to be from Mozambique.