Best of our wild blogs: 4 Sep 12

New to science, found in Singapore!
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

stork-billed kingfisher @ Ubin - Sept2012
from sgbeachbum

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Bukom refinery fire: Shell charged over lapses

MOM says oil giant breached its duties in ensuring workplace safety

Jalelah Abu Baker Straits Times 4 Sep 12;

THE Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has filed a charge against Shell for alleged lapses in workplace safety that led to a 32-hour- long fire last September.

The ministry did so under the Workplace Safety and Health Act last Friday after completing investigations into the Sept 28 blaze at the oil giant's Pulau Bukom refinery.

In a news release yesterday, MOM said the fire was caused by the maintenance works of a pipeline that began a day before the accident.

In de-oiling the pipeline, the contractors, Mun Siong Engineering and Weishen Industrial Services, had used an "open draining" method that allowed flammable gases to accumulate in the air.

The pipeline was connected to a tank of naphtha, a volatile chemical liquid, and passed through a pumphouse where petroleum products were mixed.

While the pipeline was being drained, the contractors used metal trays to collect the naphtha flowing out of the tank.

MOM said the release of naphtha in this manner not only allowed volatile vapours to escape, but also led to an accumulation of static charges, which might have produced a spark to ignite the naphtha vapours.

The ministry said that "by failing to ensure the safety of its processes", and the site itself, Shell had breached its duties under the Workplace Safety and Health Act and would be charged.

Moreover, MOM said that Shell had failed to deploy portable gas monitors that would have alerted workers and safety staff to the presence of dangerous levels of flammable vapours.

The case is expected to be heard in the Subordinate Courts later this month, on Sept 25.

Under the Act, first-time offenders may be fined up to $500,000.

Responding to the MOM statement, a Shell spokesman said: "Safety is a top priority for Shell. We regret this incident and are applying the learnings to avoid such an occurrence in the future."

The Sept 28 fire broke out in the pumproom at about 1.15pm.

It spread quickly and resulted in multiple explosions around the site, MOM said.

No one died in the blaze, but the pumphouse was badly damaged.

Shell also had to temporarily shut down the refinery that produced half a million barrels every day - its largest in the world.

It resumed full operations in February this year.

MOM files charge against Shell over Pulau Bukom fire
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 3 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower has filed a charge against Shell Eastern Petroleum for safety lapses that caused a fire at Shell's Pulau Bukom oil refinery last September.

At about 1.15 pm on 28 September, a fire broke out at a pump house at Shell's oil refinery.

The fire spread rapidly with multiple explosions.

The Ministry of Manpower's investigations revealed that Shell was conducting maintenance works on a pipeline to remove petroleum products.

The pipeline originated from a Naphtha tank and passed through a pump house, where petroleum products were mixed and blended.

Shell had used an "open draining" method that allowed flammable gases to be released into the air.

The flow of Naphtha, a petroleum product, into a plastic tray could have accumulated static charges, which could produce sparks that ignite the flammable gases.

Shell also did not deploy portable gas monitors, which would have alerted staff to dangerous levels of flammable gases.

The fire was fully extinguished on 29 September 2011 after 32 hours of fire-fighting.

There were no serious injuries although the pump house was badly damaged and the Bukom refinery had to be temporarily shut down.

But for failing to ensure the safety of its processes and the premises itself, Shell could be fined up to $500,000 if convicted under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

The case will be heard in the Subordinate Courts on 25 September.

- CNA/de

Shell charged for 'safety lapses' in Pulau Bukom fire
Today Online 4 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE - Shell Eastern Petroleum has been charged under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for "safety lapses" following the oil refinery fire on Pulau Bukom in September last year, which took firefighters 32 hours to put out.

Under the Act, Shell had a duty to ensure that the refinery and all machinery, equipment, plants or substances at the refinery was safe and posed no risks to people on the premises, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

On Sept 27 last year, Shell began maintenance on a pipeline that originated from a naphtha tank and passing through a pumphouse, where petroleum products were mixed and blended.

A day later, a fire broke out at the pumphouse and the fire escalated, with multiple explosions.

According to MOM investigations, Shell had allowed an open draining method to be used during the de-oiling of a pipeline.

This method utilised trays to collect the naphtha - a number of flammable liquid mixtures of hydrocarbons - which allowed flammable vapours to be released into the air.

The accumulation of such vapours created "a flammable atmosphere" that would easily be ignited by any ignition source, said the MOM.

In addition, the flow of naphtha into the plastic tray could have resulted in the accumulation of static charges, which could produce a spark upon contact with a good conductor of static charges. "This spark would be able to ignite the flammable naphtha vapours in the air," said the MOM.

It added that Shell had also failed to deploy portable gas monitors that would have allowed measurements to be taken within the proximity of the open draining, and would have alerted workers and safety staff to dangerous levels of flammable vapours.

Under the Act, Shell could be fined up to S$500,000 for a first conviction. The case will be heard again on Sept 25.

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Using DNA tests to track wood to its roots

Grace Chua Straits Times 4 Sep 12;

A HOME-GROWN genetics firm is making news worldwide for being able to test the DNA of wood.

Using a sample the size of a 50-cent coin, Double Helix Tracking Technologies can not only tell you what kind of wood it is, where it comes from, but also whether it is from an illegally logged endangered species.

The four-year-old company's technology was developed by founder Kevin Hill, a Singapore permanent resident, together with geneticists and experts from here, Australia and Germany.

Since its establishment in 2008, Double Helix has captured the attention of the timber industry and others who have an interest in forest conservation.

It took the Silver Award last year at the London-based International Green Awards and it has been invited to present its technology in several countries.

The firm's clients range from timber importers and plantations trying to protect their patents for specially bred fast-growing trees, to governments who are interested in how the technology can reduce the illegal logging trade, estimated to be worth some US$30 billion (S$37 billion) a year.

The global timber trade is worth about US$327 billion.

While there are other forest product certification schemes, Mr Hill, 44, said none uses DNA tracking, and added he hoped they would. "Think of us as the 'Intel Inside' sticker," he said, referring to the widespread processor technology in computers.

Interpol's forest crime team leader Davyth Stewart said, however, that DNA testing does not provide instant verification, whereas current methods, such as nailing a barcode to a log, do.

He said: "If it can be done on the spot by an officer in the field, that's where we should be heading." Mr Hill's DNA testing service takes about 14 days.

His idea to use DNA testing for wood grew in part out of his other business - Venturer, a timber production and building company, which has built structures like the iconic Henderson Waves bridge.

In 2001, Venturer was tasked to build the timber entrance plaza to the Singapore Zoo, and was asked to use wood that was certified as locally sourced.

Mr Hill said the firm found an area designated to harvest wood for commercial use in Sabah, but then he realised that was not good enough. "We had the whole idea of certification in place; what we needed was a scientific method."

In 2004, he began working with geneticist Chew Fook Tim to develop a "DNA fingerprint" test that could test a wood sample's species and place of origin. Three years later, Venturer began testing merbau wood from Indonesia for Australian retailer Simmonds Lumber.

Working with experts from Australia and Germany, Double Helix's executive director Jonathan Geach said the firm can now also test wood products - though getting DNA from a table or chair is "like getting DNA out of a woolly mammoth".

This is because the wood is dead, processed and kiln-dried, which breaks genetic material up into tiny fragments, he added.

Mr Geach said the cost of timber verification by doing spot checks is less than 1 per cent of the product's cost. Mr Hill said demand for the firm's DNA testing service is taking off. The company, worth $5 million to $10 million today according to Mr Hill, could quadruple in value in the next year, he added.

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Malaysia: Move to net deep sea trawlers who tamper collection data

Ong Han Sean The Star 4 Sep 12;

KUANTAN: Deep-sea fishing trawler operators have been warned to clean up their act as the Vessels’ Operation Report (LOV) data collection standard operating procedure has been enforced to curb abuses.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum said the Fisheries De­­­­­­­­­­­­­velopment Authority (LKIM) and the Fisheries Department would now work together to record the trawlers’ fish landing data every day.

“Previously, the onus was on the fishermen to report their data to the authorities. This system is open to tampering of data and abuse.”

“Under the new system, we will record the data and check whether their catch tallies with their subsidised fuel. No operator can escape,” he said during a visit to the LKIM complex here.

He said both agencies would work in shifts to record the LOV data which would then be sent to the state directors.

Mohd Johari added that licence and subsidised fuel abuses had caused the Government heavy losses besides affecting the country’s resources.

“This is caused by licence owners leasing out their boats to foreign fishermen, particularly Vietnamese, who then ship Malaysia’s fish and fuel back to their own countries.

“There are 1,535 C2 vessels in the country and the expected catch should be around 384,000 tonnes but only 298,771 tonnes of fish were landed last year.

“This is very serious as it can severely affect our food resources in the future. Our fish is supposed to be for the consumption of Malaysians, not the people in other countries,” he said.

Move to curb cheating in fish landings
New Straits Times 4 Sep 12;

KUANTAN: All fishing boat operators must register their catches and trips in a log book provided to them starting next month, said Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharom.

He said their particulars would be recorded by Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) officers to prevent cheating in the amount of revenue garnered from each trip.

This procedure would ensure that the number of landings commensurate with the diesel quota set for each category of fishing vessels, he said here yesterday.

"This procedure is being implemented to prevent 'leakage' in fish landings and avoid undeclared catches.

"The information will enable LKIM to determine the amount of subsidised diesel to be allocated to a vessel.

"After this, the amount of diesel allocated to each vessel will depend on the amount of catches made.

"We have set one ton of fish to be equivalent to one litre of diesel."

He said there were many irregularities in deep-water fishing operations throughout the country as observed in the Class C2 (deep sea) landing data this year, where 1,536 vessels brought in only 112,444.59 tonnes of fish.

"With the number of fishing vessels operating throughout the country, the landings should have hauled 384,000 tonnes, with each vessel bringing in 250 tonnes a year."

Johari said the highest number of irregularities occurred in Kelantan, where 372 vessels caught only 9,405 tonnes of fish.

"I am going to Kelantan soon to meet deepwater fishing boat operators and ask bogus operators to stop the fraudulent activities." Bernama

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Australian government sets tough rules for 'super-trawler'

AAP Perth Now 3 Sep 12;

ENVIRONMENT Minister Tony Burke has announced tough new conditions on a super-trawler docked in Australian waters.

The controversial super-trawler Margiris will be required to have an observer on board and to record its activities via an underwater camera under the new measures the minister announced on Monday night on ABC television's Q&A program.

The operators of the vessel must ensure that listed threatened species, migratory species, cetaceans and marine species are not killed or injured as a result of trawling operations, Mr Burke said.

"The big vessel will have to fish within the rules so that the impact it has on the environment is no more than if it was fishing on a small vessel," he said.

Mr Burke said while he didn't have the power to stop the super-trawler under environmental laws, he was able to impose restrictions on its activities based on the impact it could have on listed species such as seals and dolphins.

"My role as environment minister is to ensure that fisheries are managed in a way that protects Australia's biodiversity, particularly as they relate to specific listed species," he said.

Under the measures, if dolphins are killed by its nets, the trawler will have to stop fishing and travel 50 nautical miles (93km) before it restarts fishing activities.

The same applies if three or more seals die.

The vessel will also not be able to fish in sea lion hunting grounds.

The conditions are being imposed for an initial two-week period to give the company that owns the super-trawler an opportunity to comment on the conditions.

The minister says he will use his powers to amend accreditation of the trawler's fishery so that the company would be prosecuted if it doesn't adhere to the new conditions.

Mr Burke will consider comments received before applying conditions in the longer term.

Australia to ban giant fishing trawler
Reuters 11 Sep 12;

SYDNEY | Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:50am EDT

(Reuters) - Australia plans to block a controversial "super trawler" from fishing in its waters for two years in a victory for environmental activists worried about the impact on fish stocks and other marine life.

Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke will introduce legislation on Tuesday to give him the power to ban the vessel from fishing until more scientific research is carried out.

Burke said there was too much uncertainty surrounding the environmental impact of the 142 meter (466 foot) trawler, reportedly the world's second-largest fishing vessel.

"There has never been a fishing vessel of this capacity in Australia before and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act needs to be updated so that it can deal with it," Burke said.

Seafish Tasmania brought the FV Margiris to Australian shores last month in a joint-venture with the Dutch owners. It was awarded a 18,000 tonne quota to fish for jack mackerel and red bait fish off the coast of Australia under strict conditions. Its name was changed to the Abel Tasman and registered in Australia.

"Changing laws in response to emotive campaigning and "trial by media" undermines the credibility of Australian fisheries management, creates uncertainty and insecurity for fishermen and deters investment that is needed to support regional jobs," Seafish Tasmania and the Commonwealth Fisheries Association said in an open letter to lawmakers published on Tuesday.

Greenpeace, which had attempted to stop the ship docking when it arrived in South Australia, hailed the decision as a "sensible response to the threat of the Abel Tasman".

(Reporting by Damian Gill, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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