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Singapore still struggling to clear oil spill after four days

Challenges continue to plague Singapore’s port authority as it strives to clear up a massive oil spill that is spreading in the city-state’s waters despite many efforts to contain it.

Approximately 400 tonnes of fuel oil spilled into the water after a Van Oord dredger, Vox Maxima, hit Straits Bunkering’s bunker tanker Marine Honour, while the latter vessel was supplying fuel to the Evergreen Marine Corporation boxship Ever Blink on 14 June. The impact created a gaping hole in the fuel tank of Marine Honour, while coating the front of Vox Maxima’s hull with fuel oil.

The incident happened in Pasir Panjang Container Terminal on Singapore’s west coast, and the oil has spread to the east coast and the southern islands.

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s port master Captain Chong Jia Chyuan said today (18 June) that the clean-up effort has been challenging, despite the MPA sending patrol craft to spray chemicals to disperse the oil slicks.

He said, “There’s a window of opportunity for the oil to react with the dispersant. So within that period, all our response crafts and patrol craft were all called to use dispersant to spray on those oil that spilled on the waters. Subsequently, when the window of opportunity is over, then the strategy is to contain and recover the oil.

“Due to the current tides, some oil has landed on the southern coast of Singapore. Some of the challenges that we face is that the oil on sea is very mobile, it keeps moving due to the change of tidal currents. The deployment of assets to collect this oil is a challenge. Hence, we use technologies such as drones and satellite images to keep track of the latest pictures of the movements of the oil.”

Capt. Chong stressed that the damaged cargo tank of Marine Honour has been isolated and there are no further oil leaks.

MPA has mobilized three current busters, which collect oil on the surface of the water. The system, pulled by two vessels, sweeps the water’s surface, moving the oil towards a containment area.

Capt. Chong said that about five tonnes of oil are collected each time before it can be removed.

Skimmers are also used to lift oil off catchment zones where the oil piles up.
For the first time, MPA is deploying drones, along with satellite imagery, to target the oil clean-up better.

Capt. Chong said that MPA has plans for various oil spill scenarios, and has agreements with salvage companies to have equipment ready should an oil spill of various severity happen.

He said that it will take time to calculate the cost of the clean-up and MPA will have to work with various insurers to collate the costs of the equipment, manpower and logistics involved.

Vox Maxima and Marine Honour remain moored in the Western Anchorage pending investigations into the incident.


Martina Li
Asia Correspondent





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