Crisis team wants to raise sunken ship, locate oil leak

  • 2006-04-12
  • From wire reports

STICKY SITUATION: Estonia's icy coast continues to cause trouble for oil clean-up teams, who have a long and tedious job ahead of them.

TALLINN - Estonia's crisis regulation team has appealed to the government for help in the Baltic state's most recent oil disaster. As of April 11, oil was still leaking from a freighter than sank off Vaindloo Island in early March. After their April 10 meeting, the team asked the government if the wreckage could be raised and fuel pumped out.

More oil surfaced at the site of the shipwreck last week, prompting the group to call for a new inspection of the wreckage, in order to establish the location and scope of the leak. Alo Tammsalu, deputy director general of the Rescue Board who heads the crisis regulation team, told reporters that it was not yet clear how much this operation could cost. "The sums we will have to deal with are no doubt rather big," he admitted.
Tammsalu said further steps would be decided after a video inspection. He stressed that the team's first duty was to stop the leak and eliminate environmental danger.
According to the Merchant Shipping Code, the Maritime Administration has the right to demand from the ship-owner any funds necessary to prevent an ecological hazard.

Tammsalu said it was possible for Estonia to pay for all procedures, and then call in the costs from the ship-owner.
Sen. Lt. Silver Vahtra, head of the Border Guard Board pollution control department, told reporters that small oil slicks of one by 15-25 meters in area had been found near the sunken Runner 4.
The border guard ship Kati is collecting the oil by means of recovery booms. A monitoring flight that should have been carried out on April 10 was postponed by one day due to unfavorable weather conditions.
The pollution that last month reached the Bay of Tallinn has since dispersed, Vahtra added. He said there were ice flows dark with oil in the bay, but the slick was no longer as dense as the previous week.

During a monitoring flight on April 8, the Border Guard discovered an oil slick 2.8 kilometers long and 1.3 kilometers wide near Vaindloo Island.
In addition to a cargo of aluminum, the Dominican-flagged freighter Runner 4 that sank off Vaindloo Island in early March also carried more than a hundred tons of oil, 35 tons of light fuel and 600 liters of lubricants. Oil escaping from the ship travelled to various places along the north Estonian coastline, including the Bay of Tallinn.