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Collision causes oil spill in Singapore Strait


Latest update : 2010-05-25

Around 2,000 tonnes of crude oil poured into the Singapore Strait after two vessels collided on Tuesday. Four patrol vessels and three private craft sporting oil-spill equipment rushed to the area in an effort to contain and clean up the spill.

AFP - Emergency teams scrambled to contain a 2,500-tonne oil spill near one of the world's busiest ports on Tuesday after two vessels collided in the Singapore Strait, officials said.

A crude oil slick about four kilometres (2.5 miles) long and one kilometre wide was spotted near the east coast of Singapore hours after the pre-dawn collision, Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said.

The Malaysian-registered tanker MT Bunga Kelana suffered a gash on its port side after colliding before dawn with the MV Waily, a bulk carrier registered in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Malaysian maritime officials said.

Singapore's MPA said a total of 20 vessels from Singapore and Malaysia were involved in the cleanup effort while 200 personnel were on standby to attend to coastal areas that might be affected by the slick, the MPA said.

"Efforts to contain and clean up the oil spill are ongoing," it said, adding that neither the spill nor the emergency response had affected ship movements in the busy commercial route running along the Singapore and Malacca straits.

The city state was working closely with Malaysian and Indonesian authorities.

Containment booms were being used to confine the oil slick, which was being treated with biodegradable dispersants designed to break down the slick into smaller globules to be collected by response vessels.

Singapore marinas, ferry terminals, sea sports centres and other waterfront facilities were told to be prepared for possible effects of the oil spill, although one salvage expert said much of the crude would evaporate.

A strong smell of fuel wafted over parts of Singapore as some of the oil evaporated in the tropical heat.

Singapore is one of the world's busiest ports, with data from the MPA showing the island-nation handled 472 million tonnes of cargo last year, with bulk oil cargo constituting 37.5 percent of the amount.

Malaysia's Maritime Enforcement Agency said in a statement that the MT Bunga Kelana 3 had been towed to Singapore's Changi port for repairs while the MV Waily was still anchored at the collision site.

The statement added that the double-hulled tanker -- designed to minimise cargo spillage in case of an accident -- was carrying almost 62,000 tonnes of crude.

Earlier, the agency told AFP the collision had torn a 10-metre (33-foot) gash in the tanker's port side.

The tanker's operators, Malaysia-based AET, said in a statement: "Oil booms are being placed around the leaked cargo to contain the spill."

A spokeswoman for AET said the tanker had been carrying Bintulu light crude and the oil was most probably the one leaking into the sea.

"It seems to be a lot but if it is light crude, it will just evaporate," said Ho Yew Weng, response and projects manager of disaster management firm Oil Spill Response Singapore.

Ho added that Singapore's hot climate would make the crude disperse even faster, and with the oil's prolonged exposure to the sun since morning, "a lot of evaporation would have taken place".

Temperatures were likely to reach as high as 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), the Singapore Meteorological Service said.

Other salvage operators interviewed by AFP said the spill could potentially be damaging for the environment but the authorities' swift response would significantly lessen the impact.

"I think it can be controlled. 2,000 tonnes will not do as much damage if the teams are already there," a salvage operator who did not want to be named said.

The spill was significantly smaller than that affecting the Gulf of Mexico, which has seen hundreds of thousands of gallons (litres) of oil leak into the sea each day since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank last month.

Date created : 2010-05-25