Wreck of Smitlloyd 102 probably located off South African coast

The Dutch maritime world is holding its breath. More than 51 years after the ship Smit-Lloyd 102 sank off the South African coast, it seems very likely that the wreck has been recovered.

The disaster with the then brand new Smit-Lloyd 102, a so-called supplier (supply ship), happened on New Year’s Eve 1970. In a flying storm, with wind force ten, the cargo of the ship made water and capsized. The ship had a cargo of pipes for the oil industry on deck. It turned out that the meter-high waves had poured mountains of water into the open pipes, making the ship unstable and capsized. After that pipes were always capped at both ends.

Of the seven Dutch crew members – captain Take Drast (37) from Harderwijk and cook Sj. de Vries (37) from Hoorn were not in their twenties the others were – five died; two managed to miraculously survive the accident.

Former mate Kaffa is the only one still alive. Sailor Breukelman was stabbed to death a few years after the ship disaster during a conflict on a ship in Indonesia.

Former mate Kaffa, now 81 years.

One of the largest shipping disasters in our country in peacetime made a deep impression on the shipping nation of the Netherlands, but certainly also on the close-knit ‘Smit shipping family’. Also because the five people on board who died were mainly quite young men, in the prime of their (seaman’s) life. Two people on board, the then 29-year-old mate Karel Kaffa and sailor Jan Breukelman, survived the disaster because they were thrown into the water. The two were able to get hold of a rubber lifeboat, with which they floated to the coast in more than twelve hours.

For more than 51 years, the exact location of the Smit-Lloyd 102 remained a mystery, as well as a seaman’s grave for the five killed crew members. Their bodies, despite some searches, were never found, as were the remains of the ship itself. Until a few days ago: a South African towage and salvage company, Bridge Maritime, reported that it had accidentally found a shipwreck about 35 nautical miles (63 kilometers) off the coast of Cape St. Francis. The remains lie at a depth of about 90 meters.

In the years after the disaster, Kaffa made a career in the maritime sector, especially at Smit. He first became captain on another Smit-Lloyd ship and became director of, among other things, towage and salvage company Smit Tak, including in Singapore and in America. He remained active in the maritime world until he was 74.


The shipwreck that was located more than two weeks ago off the coast of South Africa, turns out not to belong to the Smit-Lloyd 102. The Dutch supply ship, loaded with large pipes, sank more than 51 years ago in a flying storm, killing five of the seven crew members.

Over the past week, Bridge Maritime has conducted research at the site with so-called ROVs, underwater robots that can take images of the wreck, which lies at a depth of about 90 meters.

“These images show that the now located ship looks like the Smit-Lloyd 102. It has almost the same length and the same silhouette. But we have discovered, among other things, that the layout of the deck is different and that the wheelhouse is still on it. With the Smit-Lloyd 102, it was knocked off when it capsized," said Scott-Williams. The salvage company has not been able to discover a ship name.