Oil spill off Changi East: Singapore reports

Oil spill: Beaches may reopen by this weekend
Clean-up work at Changi, East Coast almost over, but people are advised to avoid water activities
Amresh Gunasingham Straits Times 2 Jun 10;

THE seas off East Coast Park and Changi Beach may be reopened to the public by this weekend as clean-up efforts for an oil spill from last week entered its final stretch.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement yesterday that it had tested samples of seawater from the affected beaches and found no trace of harmful chemicals.

However, it noted that a faint petroleum-like odour and traces of tar balls could still be detected at the edge of the water.

Work is now under way to remove the tar balls from the beaches during low tide.

This work is expected to be completed in the next two to three days, the NEA said, and it is optimistic that the two beaches can be reopened to the public by this weekend.

'Members of the public are still advised to refrain from swimming and engaging in water activities in these areas until further notice,' it added.

The clean-up at Chek Jawa was completed yesterday, and the National Parks Board will remove the oil booms surrounding the area as no new oil slicks have been reported.

Chek Jawa at Pulau Ubin is Singapore's last refuge for plants and animals once common on the mainland.

It remains open to visitors, but guided walks have been suspended until June 13.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) also gave the waters around the island a clean bill of health for the second day running, with no patches of oil spotted.

However, it will continue to deploy clean-up vessels at sea to keep a close watch around the clock to deal with any oil patches that may surface.

With the oil spill fully cleared up, the focus now turns to the two ships that caused 2,500 tonnes of oil to be released into the sea last Tuesday.

A Hong Kong-owned bulk carrier had hit the side of an oil tanker owned by AET, a subsidiary of one of Malaysia's largest shipping companies, about 13km off the Changi coast.

How the collision happened is still unclear. An MPA spokesman would say only that its investigations were ongoing.

Legal experts say the investigations will determine, for example, how much of the final clean-up bill will be paid by each party.

The MPA had previously said both ship owners were 'jointly and severally liable for the cost of the clean-up', although under Singapore law, the tab for the clean-up as well as damages that arise from an oil spill must first be covered by the oil tanker's operator.

The Straits Times understands that the bulk carrier and its crew presently fall outside Singapore's legal jurisdiction as the vessel is docked in a port in south Johor.

However, lawyers say both ship owners are likely to accept any punishment meted out.

Apart from the civil claims, which some estimate could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, the crew members on board the vessels could also be prosecuted if their negligence caused the collision.

When contacted, AET spokesman Paul Lovell said its 12-year-old tanker, carrying 64,000 tonnes of oil, was travelling along the Singapore Strait on its way to Malacca when it was hit by the other vessel, which he claimed was travelling at a 'substantial speed'.

Lawyers for the bulk carrier's owners, Treasure Maritime, declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

With the oil slick having spread to Malaysian waters and polluting beaches along Johor's coast, Malaysia may also separately claim its own damages.

Mr Lovell said AET was working with both countries to clean up the spill. 'The expectation is it's likely to be an expensive issue.'

Containment & clean-up of oil slick continue to show positive results
Mustafa Shafawi Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 10;

SINGAPORE : Containment and clean-up efforts following the oil spill from the collision between MV Bunga Kelana 3 and MV Waily continue to show positive results on the eighth day.

The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said waters in Singapore's port, including the anchorages around Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin, were clear of any oil patches.

Waters from Changi Naval Base to East Coast Park and the Singapore Strait south of Changi remain clear of oil patches.

MPA said it will continue to monitor the waters closely and carry out necessary clean-up efforts. Various craft involved in the containment and clean-up efforts remain deployed at sea to deal with any oil patches that may surface.

MPA said it will also continue to work with the Indonesian and Malaysian authorities.

The public can contact MPA's 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325-2489 to report any sighting of oil slick in Singapore's waters or coastlines.

Separately, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said analyses of seawater samples from beaches in the East Coast and Changi showed no traces of any harmful chemicals.

However, a faint petroleum-like odour and traces of tar balls can still be detected on the water edge. NEA said the tar balls will be removed during low tide and this is expected to be completed in the next two to three days.

At Chek Jawa, NParks will be removing the oil booms as no new oil slicks have been reported.

Chek Jawa remains open to visitors, but guided walks have been suspended for two weeks, from May 29 to June 13.

- CNA/al