Barges in Simon's Town. Photo by Derek Goldman of PaddlersThe two large black barges moored against the bullnose at Simon’s Town harbour have intrigued our group of kayakers since their recent arrival. Looking freshly painted and sporting no identification or names (sinister!) imaginations running rampant fuelled all kinds of stories as to their purpose and their history.

Firing neurons  were stoked even further when one of our paddlers was told by a crewman on a neighbouring ship that the barges had ‘been found floating off Cape Point, with no sign of the ship that had been towing them, and that they were carrying ‘dirty oil’ “. Oh-oh!

But the mystery has been unravelled. Brian Ingpen of revealed the following:

The MARGARET aground off Jacobs Baai with river barges on board. Photo: Smit Amandla Marine“Stormy winter seas of 9 metres or more and gale force winds caused the unmanned barge MARGARET to run aground at Jacob’s Baai north of Saldanha after it came adrift from the tug SALVIANT two years ago.  It was carrying eleven river barges at the time. Of these, six were eventually refloated and some were sold.  The two in Simon’s Town were towed from Cape Town and are being kept in Simon’s Town as there is a shortage of space in Cape Town harbour.”

Further questioning of Brian elicited the following information.

“The barges were built in Korea and destined for Rotterdam to be used on the Rhine and other European waterways.  They came via the Cape because the slow-moving tug and her tow MARGARET would have been easy targets for pirates off Somalia.

They weren’t carrying anything – they were merely being delivered to their owner in Rotterdam.   Had they got there, they would have been used to move minerals, grain, etc.

The barges do not have names as they were not delivered to their owner and were claimed by the salvor in part lieu of costs incurred in salvaging them.  Lighters like this seldom have names – perhaps numbers.’”

Questioned as to their future here, Brian responded that he was not sure. “Occasionally lighters like this are useful in the offshore oil industry or when ships go ashore.  One was used to land the coal cargo from SELI 1 that went ashore on Table View beach in Sept 2010.”

According to Dave Hurwitz of The Boat Company in Simon’s Town, the two barges and a newly painted red tug are off to Tanzania where they will be used to offload containers from vessels that cannot dock due to their size.  “The barges are 80 metres in length & were towed to Simon’s Town for refurbishment in the drydock.”

Mystery solved and curiosity satisfied! Many thanks to fellow sleuths Belinda Blain, Brian Ingpen and Dave Hurwitz for their input.


Photo credits: 1. Barges in Simon’s Town – Derek Goldman of Paddlers

                                   2. Barges ashore at Jacob’s Baai – Smit Amandla Marine