Posted on February 28, 2019 by Ilias Kiritsis
Almost a full month after the grounding of the Solomon Trader, the full extent of the ecological damage to the surrounding area is beginning to come to light.
Heavy bunker fuel has been washing ashore on Renell Island over the last couple of weeks, covering a vast area of the island’s north-eastern beaches.
Such is the extent of the ecological disaster, that the Solomon Islands government is considering relocating the local population away from the oil slick.
Environmental authorities are considering this to be the worst man-made natural disaster to ever hit the island nation.
Over 60 tonnes of heavy bunker fuel have poured out from the grounded bulker, in the sea surrounding what is considered to be the world’s largest raised coral atoll, and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
However, there’s still a further 600 tonnes of oil remaining onboard the vessel, which threatens to further damage the local ecosystem.
It is a troubling situation for the locals living on the island, who are greatly concerned over the future of their fishing grounds.
Salvage teams from both the US and Australia are working together in an effort to remove the wreck from the site but the operation is proceeding slowly.
“Australia is extremely concerned at the scale of this disaster. The impact of this oil spill will have a devastating effect on the surrounding environment, including potentially on a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the livelihood of the people of Rennell,” said the Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Rod Brazier, in a statement earlier this week.
Local authorities investigating the incident believe, that the grounding of the bulker is a direct result of a breach of the International Safety Management Code.
The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands has asked Australia for emergency help after an oil spill from a grounded bulk carrier has caused a potential environmental disaster near a world heritage area.
The MV Solomon Trader ran aground on a coral reef at Kangava Bay, Rennell Island, on the 4th of February, which originally prompted fears over a potential oil spill.
A National Disaster Management Office spokesman has confirmed that the hull of the merchant vessel has been breached and that the vessel is experiencing water ingress.
“The boat is still on the reef and that water is coming into the engine room, which means that the hull of the ship has been breached. Nothing has been done for the past two weeks because of the weather, but now the weather has eased down, we can get people across,” the statement from NDMO reads.
Because of the category-two cyclone, Oma, that has been ravaging the surrounding area, salvaging operations on the vessel have been severely delayed.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has prepared to launch a military plane with clean-up gear, alongside a naval ship. They ‘ve also sent a surveillance plane to the site in order to fully evaluate the extent of the damage.
The reef near Rennell Island forms the largest raised coral atoll in the world and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
See original story below:
Hong Kong-flagged Bulk Carrier, Solomon Trader, was grounded after hitting a reef in the Solomon Islands.
The incident occurred in Kangava Bay off Renel Island, in the evening of February the 4th.
The vessel, which was anchored in the bay at the time, had been loading bauxite from a nearby mine since late January.
Reportedly, due to the rough weather in the area, the ship ran aground after being pushed onto a nearby reef.
Due to the aforementioned weather conditions, local government authorities have been unable to head out to the ship in order to assess the damage.
So far, no oil pollution has been spotted in the area, but local environmental groups believe that the reef has been significantly damaged in the process.
They claim that this latest event aggravates the damage that has already been caused to the local ecosystem, which is mostly attributed to bauxite spillage in the bay and coral bleaching.
"Added to the stress of acidification, high water temperatures and the result of spilt bauxite ore into the sea, which is happening a lot, this could easily wipe out that area of reef,” said Chris Bone, of OceansWatch Solomon Islands in a statement.
According to Mr. Bone, local people are concerned about the ship grounding and are pushing for action in order to remove it from the reef.