TALLINN - Nearly a month after the Probo Koala arrived, the controversial tanker has finally departed Estonia, leaving behind nearly 600 cubic meters of toxic slop. Estonian authorities allowed the tanker to unload its deadly cargo, which was found to be a diluted load of the same noxious waste that was dumped in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.
After initially rejecting the Probo Koala's request to unload waste, authorities said they eventually gave in to prevent the ship from taking to another port in a poorer country, where it may be improperly handled.
"Six hundred cubic meters of waste will be pumped onto a small ship which will transport the waste to the port of Sillamae, from where it will be taken to the waste treatment facility. There, the toxic substances will be separated from the rest and burned," Prime Minister Andrus Ansip told reporters on Oct. 16.
The company that has been contracted to process the waste, EcoPro, said it would take up to a month to remove all the toxic elements.
"We have planned to incinerate the processed oil emulsions in a licensed incineration plantâ€¦ These methods will be combined or repeated until the results of the waste water analysis are in accordance with sewage system regulations," EcoPro chairman Neeme Reinap told The Baltic Times.
"The waste from the Probo Koala is hazardous. It is dangerous to the health of people and could pollute the environment. This is not bilge water, but polluted water."
The last time the Probo Koala unloaded its waste was a different story. Rather than hand over its load to a professional waste processing company, the ship's contractor, Trafigura, paid an Ivorian company by the name of Tommy to receive the slop. Tommy then dispatched its waste trucks across the city of Abidjan and flushed the toxic liquid into drains and reservoirs, engulfing the city in noxious fumes. The official death count from the Abidjan scandal has now risen to 10.
Although the ship has been allowed to leave, destination unknown, it remains the focus of several criminal investigations in Estonia, the Netherlands and the Ivory Coast.
In Estonia, prosecutors are still investigating whether the ship committed a crime by not fully declaring the content of its tanks. Tests found the ship refined gasoline onboard to increase its octane count 's an illegal practice under EU regulations.
Trafigura, the ship's charterer, said the boat would now "continue to trade on a world-wide basis carrying oil or dry cargo." "Trafigura has cooperated fully with the Estonian inquiries and has always made it clear that the company was content for the ship to remain there so long as that assisted the prosecutor's office," the company said in a press release.
Trafigura said it would continue to cooperate with the Ivorian and Estonian investigations, and said it was no longer necessary for the Ivorian authorities to hold two of its representatives in prison during the inquiries.