29 November 2005

Thailand: Oil spill threatens coastal coral reefs

Crude oil slicks from the oil spill on Sunday near the main beach resort of Pattaya have threatened coral reefs and tourism, and suggested that Thai Oil Plc was too early and too optimistic in announcing the spill was contained, official Thai News Agency reported.

Slicks from that 20,000-litre 'leak' at the Thai Oil delivery pipeline is endangering coral around Koh Khang Khao off Chon Buri province. It also calls into question the long-term viability of such deliveries, and the ability of Thai Oil and its contractors to safety co-exist with the needs of Thailand's environment.

Government authorities have applied chemical dispersants to push layers of oil beneath the ocean surface. That was the opening bid in keeping coral reefs and marine life safe, and prevent masses of oil from coagulating on one of the few remaining reefs in the province.

The company assured both the government and the public that the problem was contained. The possibility of an endangered reef is hardly encouraging, TNA quoted an unnamed environmental observer as saying.

Marine and Coastal Resources Department director general Maitree Duangsawasdi said today that buoys used as a barrier had not been able to contain the oil slicks, at least partly because of strong winds. Chemical dispersion now is the last remaining hope for protecting coral along the north and east shores of the island, Mr Maitree said.

Officials of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department and the Pollution Control Department were to investigate. Mr Maitree said more compensation might be demanded from the oil firm in addition to the five million baht damage which the Marine Department had already claimed, as the containment and cleanup costs may be much higher than originally estimated.

The incident occurred Sunday when oil was being piped to the Thai Oil refinery in Si Racha by the Japan-registered oil tanker "Ryaho Maru", which anchored offshore while making a standard delivery to the refinery. About 20,000 litres of oil leaked into the sea.

Thai Oil, the country's largest refinery, said it accepts full responsibility for damages, but they are yet to be determined. The company said the oil spill would not affect its refining output of about 200,000 barrels per day.

Source: www.bangkokpost.com


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