Burning Seaflower vessel claims fisherman’s life

By Confidente Reporter

THE relatively calm week at the coast was marred by news of the death by fire of a member of a fishing crew on board vessel in the harbour at Walvis Bay on Saturday.

Police reports on the fire incident had it that 40-year-old Hausiku Mathews Sivambo “was trapped” inside the Ocean Tide FV when it caught fire while docked alongside the jetty of Seawork Fish Processors at around 07h00 on Saturday.

Early reports suggested there were 20 crew members on board and that 19 managed to make it to safety without suffering any injuries. The remains of late Sivambo were only recovered the following day as fire fighters and emergency crew struggled late into the night to quell the flames.

The vessel, reportedly worth around N$30 million, was a complete write-off, a Seaflower company spokesman said. It is suspected that the fire may have been caused by faulty electrical wiring on board. It was reported that Walvis Bay Fire Brigade, emergency crew and Namport’s tugboat were on the scene until late but were unable to board the vessel until Sunday.

Journalists at the scene said the fire likely started below deck, but soon “spread to the upper decks of the vessel and completely engulfed the wheelhouse and crew living quarters.” It was further noted that the fire was initially confined to the hull but despite the effort to control the blaze, “conditions on board were too dangerous to allow fire fighters to retrieve Sivambo” from the wreck until the next day.

Sivambu had reportedly worked for Seaflower Fish Processors as crewman for 15 years until his untimely death. He was a married man with three children, according to contemporaneous reports.

The Seaworks jetty was the site of another calamity when on 20 March 2018 a portion of the jetty at Walvis Bay apparently collapsed due to ground erosion, though in that incident no injuries or deaths were reported.

Fishermen at Walvis Bay have faced the brunt of a long-running struggle over health and safety, as well as long working hours and difficult working conditions at sea that led to hundreds of workers striking and losing their jobs in recent years for participating in unsanctioned industrial strike action.

Seaflower is said to be assisting the family of the deceased crewman. Fishcor, the government-owned holding company, holds a 77 percent stake in Seaflower Whitefish, a joint venture with Nordic partners, and 40 percent in Seaflower Pelagic Processing. Seaflower employs around 1,700 workers and is said to be one of the largest employers in the local fishing sector.