Sat, Mar 26, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Fuel from grounded cargo ship pollutes northern coast

By Wu Cheng-feng, Yeh Kuan-yu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Workers clean oil on a beach in New Taipei City’s Shihmen District yesterday.

Photo: Lin Cheng-shen, Taipei Times

A cargo ship that ran aground on shoals off New Taipei City’s Shihmen District (石門) on March 10 began leaking fuel on Thursday afternoon, polluting a 1.5km stretch of the northern coastline.

The ship, owned by TS Lines Co (德翔海運), started to split at about 5pm on Thursday, causing three shipping containers to fall off the deck, Coast Guard Administration captain Shen Wen-pin (沈文斌) said yesterday, adding that the cracks widened at about 6am, causing the ship to list 20 degrees as two more containers fell off.

The area around the ship has been designated off-limits due to the oil and falling containers, the Maritime and Port Bureau said.

The bureau said the ship was carrying 617 containers, among which were stored dangerous materials, such as 20 tonnes of potassium perchlorate, 18.2 tonnes of toluene, 19.5 tonnes of assorted fats, 8.5 tonnes of corrosive cleaning solutions and 6 tonnes of flammable lubricants, as well as low-to-medium-danger materials, such as 4.5 tonnes of air bags, 2.6 tonnes of car seat safety belts, 18.1 tonnes of epoxy and 11 tonnes of paint.

Rough seas have made it difficult to drain fuel from the ship, with rescue personnel only able to work on six days in the two weeks the ship has been stranded off Shihmen, the bureau said, adding that there are still 242m3 of oil in the ship’s tanks, as well as 37.5m3 of lubricant and 35m3 of wastewater.

It said that oil draining operations could resume tomorrow or on Monday at the earliest.

TS Lines said it had dispatched about 30 of its staff to the coast and set up oil booms.

The New Taipei City Government Bureau of Environmental Protection has mobilized crews to clean up after the fuel leak.

Fisheries Agency Director Wang Chao-hua (汪昭華) said orders were given to seal off the district’s Caoli and Shihmen ports on Thursday night and yesterday morning respectively, adding that the agency has deployed oil booms around the ports’ entrances as well as asking boat owners not to leave the ports.

National Kaohsiung Marine University professor Shen Chien-chuan (沈健全) called on the government to speed up cleaning efforts.

If cleaning efforts are inadequately handled, fuel particles could be absorbed by fish and seaweed, affecting fishing due to a polluted food chain, although the effects of the pollution would be minimized over time through ocean currents and waves, Shen said.

Shen said surfactants should be used to clean up oil on beaches, otherwise it would take two to three years for it to disperse naturally.

Additional reporting by Lu Hsien-hsiu and CNA

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