2 weeks ago, we at Bridge Maritime shared the news that we had found a sunken Anchor Handling Tug during a routine survey, around 50nm south of Cape Agulhas. After thorough research, the only 2 vessels of this type and size recorded to have sunk in this area were the “Voortrekker”, sunk in 40m of water 1,5nm off Gouritz River in 1993, and the “Smit-Lloyd 102”, which was lost on New Year’s Eve in 1970 under similar circumstances.

With a size and profile that matched, along with limited information available in the public domain, logic suggested that this may indeed be the missing Smit-Lloyd 102, and we appealed for information on LinkedIn.

Our appeal solicited a response from family, friends and colleagues of those lost in the incident, as well as subject experts and the remaining survivor, Karel Kaffa. But with no conclusive evidence to confirm the identity of the vessel, we committed to investigating further, hoping to uncover evidence that proved that this was indeed the same ship. To that end, we deployed a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to capture images of the 90m-deep wreck.

Due to spending an extended period at the bottom of the ocean, the wreck is now covered with extensive marine growth and shoals of fish. This made the identification of her name impossible, and we were required to focus on distinguishing features instead.

While the dimensions of the wreck match the type, size, shape and profile of the Smit-Lloyd 102, there are a few differences that confirmed it could not be the same vessel.

  1. Chief amongst these is the existence of an intact wheelhouse aboard the ship – when communications with Karel Kaffa, one of the two survivors of the incident, indicate that the fibreglass wheelhouse of the Smit-Lloyd 102 was washed off the deck during the capsize, and was recovered on a nearby shoreline by the South African Police a short time later

  2. We also discovered that the winch and general arrangement of the forecastle deck of the wreck is distinctly different to that of the Smit-Lloyd 102.

  3. In place of the two distinct funnels on board the Smit-Lloyd 102, this wreck has an A-frame housing the engine and auxiliary exhausts.

Another interesting factor surrounding this find is a scattered pile of pipe a short distance from the wreck. We suspect that this was deck cargo, and could indicate that it may have sunk under similar circumstances to both the Smit-Lloyd 102 and the Voortrekker.

Our findings, unfortunately, do not close this chapter on the Smit-Lloyd 102, but rather open a new mystery worthy of further investigation.

This is project is very close to our hearts and we are committed to identifying the ship. We have appealed to various experts and institutions to assist us in this regard, and to uncover the story behind its sinking. We find it surprising that a wreck of this age, condition and design can exist on our coastline without any record, official or anecdotal.

We understand that this has been an emotional time for the families of those who were lost on the Smit-Lloyd 102, and we empathise deeply with all who have a personal connection to this tragedy.

Should you have any knowledge or expertise that may assist us in this project, please reach out – we would love your help in solving this mystery once and for all.