Clean-up team prepared to tackle oil spills

  • 2006-03-15
  • From wire reports

BEFORE: Hopefully, the Parispea peninsula, one of Estonia's most beautiful geological features, will survive the recent oil spill.

TALLINN - Environmental officials said up to 40 tons of fuel may have leaked into the sea from a freighter that sank off the Estonian coast last week. "An underwater video showed a large crack in the middle part of the ship, which corroborates the version that the content of one of its fuel tanks had risen to the surface," Toomas Liidja, senior inspector with the Environmental Inspectorate, told the Postimees daily.

The border service established on March 12 that there are two oil slicks off the Parispea peninsula on the northern coast that, according to preliminary information, could be fuel oil, a heavy product that is difficult to clean up.
The head of the Border Guard Board's pollution response department, Silver Vahtra, told reporters the border guard chopper charted the polluted area with a lidar system and found two slicks in the area. "Looking with the naked eye, it's heavy fuel," Vahtra said.

The border guard said it would treat the oil slicks detected near the Parispea peninsula and the island of Vaindloo near the area where the freighter sank as two separate cases.
On the peninsula two rescue rafts, one rescue boat and one rescue buoy were found. The buoy came from the sunken freighter Runner 4, spokespeople for the border authority said.

The new spill lies 23 miles or 42 kilometers from the site where the freighter went down.
The Runner 4, a Dominica-flagged cargo ship, sank in Estonian territorial waters near the Vaindloo lighthouse in the Gulf of Finland the night into March 6. The ship that was carrying a cargo of aluminum had 102 tons of heavy fuel, 35 tons of light fuel oil and 600 liters of lubricant oil in its tanks when it sank.

A drifting oil slick was detected near the site of the accident. Before the new spill was found the border guard estimated that up to 500 liters of used lubricant from the ship's engine room had ended up in the sea.
On March 13 it was announced that the Estonian border guard's multipurpose ship, the EVA-316, would head to the Parispea peninsula to start cleaning up the slick. A pollution response expert from Finland was scheduled to take part, Vahtra said.
He said it is not clear whether the hydraulic systems of the pollution fighting equipment can resist the pressure of ice or not. "If the EVA-316 cannot cope with the task, nothing can," he said. "Besides the EVA-316, there are in the Baltic Sea two more ships equipped with similar pollution response systems."