A marine pollution alert has been issued following the washing ashore of globules of oil along some of the beaches of Lifou Island, New Caledonia over the past few days.
These include Lifou, Ouvea and both Yate and Houailou on the main island’s east coast, RNZ informed.
The oil seems to originate from an oil spill which was detected at the grounding site of the ill-fated containership Kea Trader following the breaking up of the ship’s hull in two on November 12.
The French High Commission in New Caledonia released images from the site saying that black oil traces were reported in the ship’s vicinity on the following day. Residual oil traces were recorded in the ship’s hold four, as well.
As informed, the spill was of a limited range of up to 1m3, however, the oil recovery efforts were hampered amid inclement weather conditions on the sea reef.
Traces of heavy fuel oil were reported despite the fact that the majority of 752 tonnes of fuel were pumped out of the 2017-built boxship, which ran aground on the Durand Reef on July 12.
It is reported that four tonnes remained in the ship as it was impossible to pump them out.
According to the High Commission, there have been no traces of pollution at the grounding site since November 26. The authorities are monitoring the wreck and inspecting the site for traces of pollution on a daily basis.
A Lomar Shipping spokesperson told World Maritime News that even though the origin of the tarballs remains uncertain, the company has taken immediate steps to respond to the situation.
“We have sought the assistance of ITOPF, the oil pollution experts, and hired other specialist teams, who have been deployed onsite to deal with the situation, in cooperation with teams in the local community.
The authorities have now triggered the emergency response procedure (ORSEC contingency plan) following the appearance of further tarballs around other islands and the main island, and our teams are accordingly now operating under the order and coordination of the central authorities from the main island. Two oil spill response vessels chartered by the owners remain on standby around the Kea Trader, but as yet have not detected any major pollution from the vessel,” the spokesperson said.
Separately, the company added that based on the latest images of the vessel, there is some movement of the two halves of the vessel.
Aerial images show that whilst continuing to sit hard aground on the flat rock Durand Reef near to New Caledonia, in the south Pacific, the two sections of the vessel have moved slightly further apart, Lomar said.
“Salvors continue to monitor the situation, with tugs remaining on site along with specialist anti-pollution contractors. Work to remove remaining containers has been on hold given poor weather and safety issues on site,” a statement from the company reads.
The grounded ship will be recycled once removed from the reef as the damages sustained in the grounding are beyond repair.
World Maritime News Staff; Image Courtesy; Centre de Traitement de Crise Maritime; Lomar Shipping