Australia Intensifies Efforts to Contain Solomon Islands Oil Spill

solomon-traderImage Courtesy: Roderick Brazier, High Commissioner to Solomon Islands

Australia is deploying more assets to the Solomon Islands in an effort to contain the oil spill from the grounded bauxite bulk carrier Solomon Trader which is moving towards the UNESCO listed World Heritage area.

“Given escalating ecological damage, and a lack of action by commercial entities involved, the Solomon Islands Government has requested Australia’s assistance,” Marise Payne, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, said.

“In response, we are mobilising an offshore pollution mitigation operation, including equipment, vessels and specialised personnel, under the leadership of AMSA and working alongside the Solomon Islands government’s own efforts,” Payne added.

On February 5, 2019, the Solomon Trader carrying over 700 tons of heavy fuel oil ran aground in Solomon Islands’ Rennell and Bellona Province due to inclement weather conditions. The 73,600 dwt vessel remains in Kangava Bay, Rennell Island, home to a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Aerial assessments conducted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) have confirmed that up to 75 tons of heavy fuel oil from the ship has dispersed across the Island’s sea and shoreline, contaminating the ecologically delicate area.

The oil spans five to six kilometers across the shore and is moving towards the adjacent World Heritage area. There is a high risk that the remaining heavy fuel oil on the vessel — over 600 tons — will be released into the surrounding area, according to a statement issued by Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) last week.

Australia stressed it is supporting the Solomon Islands government to hold the responsible commercial entities to account for the ongoing oil spill.

Australia continues to stand behind the Solomon Islands Government’s efforts to ensure that commercial parties responsible for this incident take action and are held responsible,” the minister concluded.

The 1994-built Solomon Trader, previously known as Ocean Amber, is owned by Hong Kong-based King Trader Ltd, data provided by VesselsValue shows.

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