Friday 9 August 2013

Ship detained after discharging oil in Manila Bay.

The MT Makisig, a 34 000 barrel (5.4 million liter) double hulled oil tanker, owned by the Herma Shipping and Transport Corporation and chartered by Chevron Philippines Inc, has been detained by authorities in the Philippines after discharging around half a million liters of diesel into Manila Bay on Thursday 8 August 2013. It is unclear why the incident happened, as the ship had earlier unloaded its load of fuel oil at the Petron Rosario Terminal, apparently without incident, and was leaving the bay at the time of the discharge. Discharges of this kind are often associated with cleaning out the ship's bilge tanks, areas at the bottom of ships hulls where waste liquids accumulate, including waste oil from engines and any oil that has leaked from tanks internally. Legally this must be carried to a port, adding to a ships fuel bill, then washed out by properly trained contractors and any waste material properly disposed of, again costing money. If a good reason cannot be provided for the discharge, then the ship's owners can be asked to pay the costs of cleaning up the spill, and its crew may face criminal charges.

The MT Makisig, detained in Manila after discharging around half a million liters of diesel into the sea. Shipbuilding Tribune.

The Philippine Coast Guard have attempted to contain the spill with a series of booms, but due to the size of the slick, which covers around 300 km², it is not confident of complete success. As diesel is a light oil, and will evaporate over time, authorities in Manila have decided not to use chemical dispersants on the spill, which can cause further environmental problems, being themselves persistent in the environment and toxic to wildlife. Around 20 km of shoreline has apparently been affected by the spill, which is also spreading towards the mouth of the bay. A number of people have been hospitalized with breathing difficulties associated with fumes from the spill, and the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Bureau has banned the harvesting of shellfish from affected areas until further notice, due to the toxic nature of the oil.

Manila Bay and the surrounding area. Google Maps.

The MT Makisig was originally designed as a single-hulled tanker, and retrofitted by Herma Shipping at its shipyard in Mariveles, Bataan, in 2012. Herma have also began to build double hulled vessels from scratch, and have been keen to publicize their role as the first company in the Philippines to do so. As such this incident is likely to harm the company's image, regardless of whether it was caused by criminality or a technology failure.

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