Solomons PM vows to chase owner of grounded bulker

Solomons PM vows to chase owner of grounded bulker

The caretaker prime minister of the Solomon Islands has told the mining companies, shipowner and P&I Club connected to the ecological disaster unfolding in the country from a grounded bulker that they must foot the bill for all clean-up costs.

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. The ship is owned by Hong Kong owner, King Trader.

“My priority is … salvaging this oil spill and making sure the environment is not damaged any further,” prime minister Rick Houenipwela said at a televised press conference today as salvors grapple to contain the spill washing up on the shores of Rennell Island with around 100 tons now spilt.

When quizzed by reporters that the parties involved might not pay for the accident, the prime minister said: “Well they might like not to pay it but that is our position.”

Houenipwela said the parties involved had to date listed the damage as a low priority. It was only yesterday, as international pressure led by Australia grew, that the ship’s owner and insurer publically apologised for the accident and the slow clean-up efforts to date.

Houenipwela said today the government was prepared to put the companies involved on an international blacklist “if they do not take their responsibilities in accordance with internationally accepted practice”, echoing stern words in recent days from Australian authorities who have sent salvage experts to the scene of the disaster.

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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