The decommissioned SA Navy Tug De Mist sank while alongside in Simon’s Town harbour on Saturday.
The sinking was first noticed at about 05h00 when Navy officers were conducting rounds and saw the moored tug listing to one side.
Navy divers were urgently called and, try as they might, could not save the stricken vessel.
“The wind was blowing the tug onto the pneumatic fender preventing a vessel bumping the quay. Due to the weight on the fender it burst, causing the gunwale to dip underwater. Once this happened the tug sank within minutes,” Navy spokesman Commander Greyling van den Berg said.
There was no-one aboard as the De Mist, formerly utilised as an ocean tug, had been withdrawn from service and was up for disposal. She was decommissioned two and a half years ago and according to unconfirmed reports recently came out of drydock.
Salvage operations have started so a proper investigation can be conducted to establish the circumstances leading to the loss of the tug, replaced by Tug Imvubu. De Mist was 39 years old and was built by the then Dorbyl Long shipyard in Durban in 1978.
Another unconfirmed report has it De Mist “sprang a leak about 10 years ago and just made it to the synchro-lift on time”.
De Mist and De Nuys (built in 1969) were in 2015 and 2016 replaced by the tugs Imvubu and Inyathi, both build by Damen Shipyards Cape Town under Project Canter.