Cleanup yields oily water, debris from troubled Vietnamese ship in Palawan
BALABAC, Palawan, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) station in southwestern Palawan had removed around nine drums of oily water mixed with debris in a cleanup operation around Vietnamese-flagged MV Viet Hai Star that ran aground off Balabac town last week.
The PCG said it would continue the manual scooping operation to collect the oil that spilled out from the half-submerged vessel, which ran aground some 810 yards off Balabac Port on Nov. 21 after it encountered bad weather.
MV Viet Hai Star sailed from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam en route to Cagayan de Oro City when it encountered rough seas, forcing it to seek shelter in Balabac, where it ran aground. It was carrying 17 Vietnamese crew members, 80,000 sacks of rice and 29,000 liters of automotive diesel oil.
“As of the moment, the oil leak is already manageable and the oil slick that reached the shorelines and mangrove area are being scooped manually,” said Ensign Chrieson Dave Gabayan, the PCG Palawan assistant public affairs officer, in an interview on Monday.
Ensign Gabriel Infante, head of the PCG southern Palawan station, said in a separate interview on Monday that they had installed an oil spill boom to contain the fuel leak as they had no capability nor equipment to siphon off the oil spilled from the vessel.
As of Tuesday, the crew members of MV Viet Hai Star were still in Balabac awaiting further instruction from their vessel’s management. The sacks of rice the ship was carrying were also left inside the vessel, the PCG said.
Also on Monday, a salvage ship, MV Salvor of Harbor Star Shipping Inc., arrived in Balabac to assess the condition of MV Viet Hai Star. MT Salvor was commissioned by PNI Consultancy, which was hired by Viet Hai Co. Ltd, the company that owns MV Viet Hai Star.
Infante said MT Salvor only responded to the oil spill since there are no other plans yet for the MV Viet Hai Star.
After arriving, the crew of the MT Salvor installed an additional oil spill boom around MV Viet Hai Star, fixed the boom initially placed there by the PCG, and added weights to prevent it from drifting, he added.
“As for the recovery of the vessel, Harbor Star is not the contracted company for the salvage operation. There is still an ongoing negotiation. We do not know yet if they will refloat it or chop it for recovery,” he said.
Infante said they stopped their manual scooping of the oil that spilled out of the vessel after MT Salvor arrived, as it has “taken charge with the collection and containment of the oil including the shoreline cleanup.”
“But if they still need additional manpower, we will provide and will help them as much as we can, along with the local government of Balabac,” he said.
“As for the siphoning of the oil that is still inside the vessel, that will be done by the company that will be contracted to recover the vessel,” he added.