Posted on February 21, 2019 by Ilias Kiritsis
Salvage teams are in place, ready to remove the wreck of the Hong-Kong-flagged bulk carrier, Solomon Trader, that ran aground off Renell Island on February the 4th.
According to Indonesian-based Bintan Mining, the charterer of the bulk carrier, the vessel has now officially been declared a total loss.
The vessel’s P&I club has contracted a salvage company in order to remove the wreck of the vessel from the UNESCO heritage site.
Salvage operations in the area have been hampered by a cyclone but the weather seems to be improving in recent days.
There has been pressure on the company to salvage the vessel as soon as possible. Locals fear that the oil leak from the vessel will have disastrous consequences on the local ecosystem.
"There's some spillage from the vessel. You can see changes in the oil content of the sea. But the company is saying that it's not oil, it's other things in the ship. But I can confirm that there are more fuel content in the sea area surrounding the vessel. The weather is getting better now so hopefully, they can reach the wreckage site and do their work,” said Derek Pongi, a member of the Tehakatuu tribe living on Rennell Island.
See previous update below:
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.