More than 80 tons of heavy bunker fuel has now spilled from the hull of the grounded Solomon Trader bulker with Australian authorities warning yesterday that all 660 tons of the fuel onboard could leak soon unless urgent action is taken.
The 1994-built Hong Kong-flagged Solomon Trader, insured by Korea P&I, ran aground on February 5 while loading bauxite in bad weather off Rennell Island. Its anchor dragged and the ship became lodged on a reef near the world’s largest raised coral atoll, a UNESCO site.
Aerial assessments conducted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) on behalf of the Solomon Islands government have confirmed extensive oil leakage around the ship, which has begun to disperse across the surrounding sea and shoreline. The oil spans five to six km across the shore and is moving towards the adjacent World Heritage area.
“There is a high risk remaining heavy fuel oil on the vessel (currently estimated at over 600 tonnes) will be released into the surrounding area,” the Australian department of foreign affairs and trade stated in an update yesterday.
The Solomon Islands government has advised that responsibility to salvage the vessel and mitigate the environmental impact of this incident rests with the commercial entities involved, the Australian government statement noted.
“Australia has been profoundly disappointed by the slow response of these companies, and their lack of adequate communications with and responsiveness to the Solomon Islands government,” the statement read.
Australia is supporting the Solomon Islands government to hold the responsible commercial entities to account for the ongoing oil spill from the grounding of bulker.
Australia is deploying additional personnel, equipment and maritime assets from Australia to minimise the impact of the spill.
“Australia will continue to stand behind the Solomon Islands government’s efforts to ensure the commercial parties responsible for this incident take action. We expect companies operating in our region to meet international standards and take seriously their environmental obligations,” the department of foreign affairs and trade stressed.
Disaster for the coral reefs of Rennell Island, Solomon Islands as the 225m long MV Solomon Trader aground on reef starts leaking oil. Images captured by @planetlabs satellites pic.twitter.com/oCHbah1wiV
— Murray Ford (@mfordNZ) February 25, 2019