The 230-m-long ship, named SMART, ran aground on Monday. It was not blocking shipping lanes at the Indian Ocean port or impeding operations at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, the largest coal shipping point on the continent, maritime officials told Reuters.

The single-hull, 151,279-ton ship is registered to Alpha Marine Corp and flies a Panamanian flag. After loading at Richards Bay it was intended to deliver its cargo to a port in China, according to Thomson Reuters data.

A spokesperson for the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said there is an estimated 1,769 tons of fuel oil and 129 tons of diesel on board, but there is no immediate threat of a spill. The salvage will focus on the removal of the fuel first, the spokesperson said.

On Monday, 23 crew members including the captain were airlifted off the vessel after it ran aground. No injuries were reported.