France braces for oil slick to wash ashore near Bordeaux

French authorities are bracing for a sizeable oil slick to hits its southwestern coast near Bordeaux on the weekend following the fire and subsequent sinking of Grimaldi’s conro Grande America in the Bay of Biscay on Tuesday.

The oil slick, 10 km long and 1 km wide, is being tracked by local authorities who have also warned the ship was carrying 45 containers of “dangerous materials” when it sank. The contents include 100 tonnes of hydrochloric acid and 70 tonnes of sulphuric acid.

The ship had been en route from Hamburg to Casablanca, carrying 2,000 vehicles and 2,200 tons of fuel, when a fire broke out late Sunday. The 26 crew members and single passenger were forced to abandon ship when it caught fire, and were rescued by Britain’s Royal Navy.

“According to our forecasts, fragments could reach some areas of the coast in Nouvelle-Aquitaine by Sunday or Monday owing to bad weather, which also risks making the anti-pollution operation more difficult,” France’s environment minister Francois de Rugy said yesterday.

France is deploying four ships to fight the slick at sea while a clean-up team is being readied on land.

The fire is thought to have broken out on the car deck before spreading to a container, however the cause is unknown, French authorities said yesterday.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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