Wed, Nov 12, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Ship runs aground, tonnes of oil spilled

COST OF NEGLIGENCE Seasonal winds were a blessing after the ‘Morning Sun’ ran aground off the Taipei County coast, carrying most of the leaked, thick fuel oil to shore

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF WRITER

The Panama-registered cargo ship Morning Sun ran aground off the Taipei County coastline late on Monday. The cargo ship released more than 100 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea, polluting an area 3km by 300m.

PHOTO: CHEN CHING-MIN, TAIPEI TIMES

The Panama-registered cargo ship Morning Sun was grounded 300m off the Taipei County coastline late on Monday evening, releasing more than 100 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said at a press conference yesterday that as there were no ecologically sensitive areas in the vicinity and that the situation was under control, adding that an emergency response unit had been formed and that most of the leak would be cleaned up within two weeks.

“The accident occurred at 10:20pm on Monday. Due to technical negligence, the bottom of the Morning Sun scraped the rocky seafloor and the ship was left stranded 300m off Taipei’s Shihmen Township (石門),” the administration’s marine pollution section chief Hsu Jen-tse (許仁澤) said.

As the oil tank was close to the bottom of the ship, heavy fuel oil was released into the sea, Hsu said, adding that as of 4pm yesterday, about 100 tonnes of the 493 tonnes of heavy oil held in the Morning Sun had leaked out, polluting an area 3km long by 300m wide.

“The leak poses a threat, as it is close to the First Nuclear Power Plant, whose staff has been ordered to activate preventive safety measures,” Hsu said.

Heavy oil is a type of fuel oil made with the remains of crude oil after gasoline and distillate fuel oils are extracted. The viscous and dense liquid fuel is inexpensive, but contains relatively high amounts of pollutants, particularly sulfur, which forms sulfur dioxide upon combustion.

“Fortunately, because of the direction of the northeast seasonal winds, the waves have brought most of the leakage ashore. Otherwise, the heavy oil could have coagulated on the seafloor and it would have been difficult to clean up,” Hsu said.

The incident happened when the 14,000-tonne ship, which was northbound from Singapore to Busan Port in South Korea, pulled close to the Taiwanese coast to shield itself from winds on Monday night. As it was not carrying any load, the poor weather conditions caused it to wobble violently, Hsu said.

Although the Coast Guard Administration received an emergency call, it was unable to land a rescue helicopter on the vessel to rescue crew members until the winds subsided in the morning, Hsu said.

“As of now, 18 of the 21 crew members have been rescued, while the remaining three, who are familiar with the pipelines on the ship, will stay on board to help with the cleanup,” he said.

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