A grounded Saudi Arabia-registered oil tanker stranded for five days near Hsitzuwan was towed out to sea yesterday without leaving any chemical pollutants, according to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).
The tanker Al Farabi ran aground in Hsitzuwan, near the entrance to Kaohsiung Harbor, last Thursday in high waves and winds triggered by the passage of Typhoon Imbudo.
The potential threat to the coastal environment posed by the vessel, which was carrying about 30,000 tonnes of chemicals, including methanol and glycol, prompted the EPA to set up a Cabinet-level taskforce to handle the crisis.
Working with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the Coast Guard Administration, local governments and the ship's agent, a special team stationed at the scene decided to try and tow the vessel off the sand.
Last Friday, harbor authorities and the local agent tried to remove the vessel during high tide in the morning tide but the ship's weight worked against it. Officials said that the bottom of the vessel was embedded 2m into the sand.
At that time the tanker was carrying 1,177.5 tonnes of fuel oil, 22,152 tonnes of methanol, 4,693 tonnes of glycol and 4,046 tonnes of glycerol.
"We had no choice but to allow the agent to make a ship-to-ship transfer of chemicals, the first time in Taiwan's history [that such an operation has been conducted]," Cheng Shean-rong (
Cheng said that 8,060 tonnes of methanol was transferred to a chemical vessel, Tai Bah, while 2,000 tonnes of glycol was loaded onto the Golden Tasaka.
The offloading operations went smoothly and were completed early yesterday morning.
Around 5:30am the Al Farabi was pulled free by tugboats and two hours later it anchored in Kaohsiung Harbor.
"Our preparation and standard operating procedure [SOP] for preventing environmental catastrophes caused by serious oil spills worked," Cheng said.
The establishment of a SOP to prevent marine pollution was triggered by an oil spill from the Greek-registered cargo ship Amorgos in January 2000.
About 1,150 tonnes of fuel oil from the Amorgos polluted Kenting National Park.