Four Days On & Singapore Still Battling to Contain Oil Spill

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore at dusk
Updated Published

Singapore’s port authority continues to face challenges in addressing a significant oil spill that is spreading in the city-state's waters, despite extensive efforts to contain it.

Around 400 tonnes of fuel oil spilled into the sea following a collision between Van Oord's dredger, Vox Maxima, and Straits Bunkering's bunker tanker, Marine Honour, on June 14. The tanker was supplying fuel to Evergreen Marine Corporation's container ship, Ever Blink, at the time of the incident. The collision caused a large hole in Marine Honour’s fuel tank, coating the front of Vox Maxima’s hull with oil.

The incident occurred at the Pasir Panjang Container Terminal on Singapore’s west coast, with the oil spreading to the east coast and southern islands.

Captain Chong Jia Chyuan, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore's port master, stated on June 18 that the clean-up operation has been difficult. Despite deploying patrol craft to spray chemicals aimed at dispersing the oil slicks, challenges remain.

“There’s a window of opportunity for the oil to react with the dispersant. So within that period, all our response crafts and patrol craft were all called to use dispersant to spray on those oil that spilled on the waters. Subsequently, when the window of opportunity is over, then the strategy is to contain and recover the oil,” he explained.

Capt. Chong noted that the changing tides have carried some oil to Singapore’s southern coast, complicating the clean-up efforts. He emphasized the difficulty in collecting the oil due to its mobility, driven by tidal currents. To address this, the MPA is utilizing technologies such as drones and satellite imagery to monitor the oil’s movement.

He also confirmed that the damaged cargo tank of Marine Honour has been secured, preventing further leaks.

The MPA has deployed three current busters, which are systems pulled by two vessels that sweep the water's surface, guiding the oil into a containment area. Capt. Chong mentioned that about five tonnes of oil are collected each time before removal.

Additionally, skimmers are being used to remove oil from catchment zones where it accumulates. For the first time, drones and satellite images are being employed to enhance the efficiency of the clean-up efforts.

Capt. Chong stated that the MPA has contingency plans for various oil spill scenarios and agreements with salvage companies to ensure readiness for spills of differing severities. He stated that assessing the clean-up costs will take time, requiring collaboration with various insurers to account for equipment, manpower, and logistics expenses.

Both Vox Maxima and Marine Honour remain anchored in the Western Anchorage as investigations into the incident continue.