Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 March 2001


(2001), "Pollution", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 10 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/dpm.2001.07310aac.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited



28 February 2000 – North Bend, Oregon, USA

State officials have given salvage officials 30 days to come up with a detailed plan to remove the remains of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa from the beach near Coos Bay. But the state agreed to accept a back-up plan, one that does not involve the full removal of the vessel's stern, which Governor John Kitzhaber has demanded since the vessel beached last year. Representatives of Britannia Steam Ship Insurance Association, insurers for the vessel's Japanese owners, met for two hours Friday with state officials to discuss the stern's removal. Salvors still plan to remove it by sea but have ruled out refloating the wreck. Instead, they are exploring using jack-up barges and chopping up the wreckage in place. Paul Cleary, director of the Division of State Lands, said salvors also asked whether environmental constraints would be added to protect aquatic life, public land or Western snowy plovers, a federally protected bird that nests near the wreckage. Salvors are considering tools that would require a staging area on the beach and the possible use of explosives to implode the wreck, Cleary said. A back-up plan might involve removing only the wreckage above the sand line, he said. At a February 8 State Lands Board meeting, Kitzhaber repeated his position. "Certainly we'll listen to the responsible parties," said Kitzhaber, the board's chairman. "But at this point, the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate to us why it's not feasible to remove the stern." Cleary said the state would examine the plans, take comments from federal and Coos Bay officials, and discuss them at the State Lands Board's meeting, April 18 before making a final decision.

The stubborn stern of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa cannot be refloated, probably would not be gone this year and could remain grounded off Coos Bay's North Spit next year or longer, according to salvage expert and ship representative Bill Milwee. On Friday, Milwee told officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Division of State Lands, State Parks, Department of Environmental Quality and State Risk Management that refloating the vessel's stern is no longer an option and the stern is more dangerous than it was last fall. "The New Carissa wreckage can be removed, but doing so carries very serious risks and impacts, including risk to human lives and the risk of additional environmental harm to the North Spit," Milwee said. "We have a harsh reality to deal with and a difficult decision to make in order to choose an option that does not cause greater harm than benefit." Previously, crews were removing the wreck a piece at a time in preparation for efforts to tow it to sea for sinking. Milwee said removing the wreck by sea is the only feasible option. Bringing it to shore would require major construction on the spit and could do permanent environmental damage, he added. Even seaward, complete removal of the wreck could be a multiyear operation with extremely hazardous working conditions, Milwee said. In addition, more vessels and equipment will be in the dangerous surf zone. Those vessels carry toxic fuel, which could pose a threat if an accident occurred. Removing only part of the remaining wreck does not rid the operation of any of those dangers, he said. There are risks in leaving the remaining wreckage, as well. The wreck could become an attractive nuisance. People will want to climb on it or dive around it. The responsible party would have to reduce the risk of injury to the public. In addition, beach crews would have to continue monitoring the area cleaning up tar balls. The meeting, held at the Division of State Lands office in Salem, was the first step in trying to find a safe, realistic way to remove the vessel. "The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the options for wreck removal and begin the process of the state and responsible party coming to a decision about the wreck together," said Melinda Merrill, representative for the responsible party. State Lands director Paul Cleary said Milwee and the salvage team agreed to develop a technical plan for complete removal of the wreck including a risk/benefit analysis. The group will meet again on March 24 to go over the plan. Milwee said salvage work would not begin on the North Spit before July.

22 March 2000 – Fuel oil that leaked from the broken hull of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa ruined hundreds of acres of oyster beds along the coast, the owners of Clausen Oyster Co. allege in a $3 million lawsuit. Filed in US District Court in Eugene, the lawsuit claims that much of the 70,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled when the vessel ran aground February 4, 1999, destroyed half of Clausen's 700-acre oyster bed in Coos Bay. The company says it will lose about 75 percent of its expected profits this year and the same amount next year. James Walsh, a San Francisco attorney representing Clausen, said the losses will exceed $3 million. The company initially filed a $3 million claim with the National Pollution Fund Center, which oversees a $1 billion fund. But when the claim languished, it was withdrawn in favour of the lawsuit, Walsh said. The Clausen claim was by far the largest among 72 individuals and companies filing claims for damage caused by the grounding of the vessel and the fuel spill. The company is also the first to sue as a result of the incident. The lawsuit names the vessel and her registered owner, the Japanese company that operated the vessel and its insurer. It also names the vessel's master and Bill Milwee, a Portland-based salvage expert representing the owner and insurer. Sixty-five of the claims have now been settled, according to Rockey Bowler, the Portland public relations company representing New Carissa interest. Among those are three claims from other Coos Bay oyster companies, for a total of $324,819. Seven claims remain unresolved, the one from Clausen, three others totalling about $79,000, and three for which no amounts have been submitted, according to the firm. The lawsuit also alleges that the vessel's representatives violated federal law requiring interim payment for valid pollution claims. Brian Bell, of the public relations firm representing New Carissa, denied the Clausen's claim that the high mortality among their oysters was caused by New Carissa oil. Environmental experts hired by the vessel's representative said the deaths were a natural phenomenon, caused by freezing weather in December 1998 that weakened the oysters, then heavy rain in early 1999 that changed the salinity of the water and killed the stressed creatures. "We've been attempting to come to agreement for months," Bell said. "Neither their accounting nor scientific data supports the claims they are seeking." Walsh, however, said that Clausen has evidence to support its position. The weather pattern described by Bell obviously occurred before without causing an oyster die off, he said, and lesions found in the dead oysters were the result of oil contamination.

25 March 2000 – A report to the state by salvors says the beached stern of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa cannot be towed to sea for burial and that dismantling her would pose enormous risks to human life. Their findings, in a report to the Oregon Division of State Lands, point more strongly than ever to an unstated option, leaving her where she is. State officials and the representative of the vessel, Bill Milwee, said a second opinion would be sought on the feasibility of dismantling the disintegrating hulk, which is stuck in the sand near Coos Bay. Milwee stopped short of recommending that the 98 foot stern section be left in place, saying that is a decision for the state of Oregon to make. But he made it clear he would like the state to consider it. "The state's position is still that the wreck be removed," said Paul Cleary, director of the Division of State Lands. "But I think everyone's saying, 'Let's go into this with our eyes open."' The stern was cut in two last fall as salvors tried unsuccessfully to tow it to deep sea for burial. The smaller of the segments is almost entirely submerged and contains two fuel tanks, thought to be empty, but with an unknown amount of residual fuel in them, said the report issued yesterday. As the tanks are positioned more than 30 feet below the ocean bottom, however, it is impossible to gauge their precise quantity of fuel, yesterday's report said. The larger of the two stern segments, at 98 feet in length, was briefly floatable last fall. But it has since taken a battering by the ocean and, listing sharply southward, is more deeply embedded in the sand, rendering it unfloatable, yesterday's report said. Yesterday's report painted a grim picture of what it would take to dismantle the stern. It said seas are too rough for workers to board from a boat, the surf is too high to allow the use of a floating barge nearby, and the angle of the deck is too steep for construction of a helicopter landing pad. Workers, the report said, would have to be harnessed into position. But the report said the environmental threat from the wreck has been "virtually eliminated". The stern is now classified as "tidal" and it is home to marine life, including crabs and other shellfish. While the report said the amount of fuel remaining in tanks on the smaller section is "unknown", it also said the tanks likely contain only "clingage", residual oil stuck on the surface of the breached tanks. Yesterday's report made no mention of costs associated with stern removal. Milwee said such calculations would not be made until a decision on the stern's fate.

20 April 2000 – Oregon state governor John Kitzhaber has demanded that the owners of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa, which ran aground on a beach near Coos Bay last year, should pay $25 million if they refuse to remove the vessel's remaining stern section. Kitzhaber had originally asked the ship's owners to post a performance bond guaranteeing payment of up to $25 million towards the cost of removing the stern section. Instead, Green Atlas Shippers of Panama and TMM of Tokyo submitted a letter pledging full payment of the wreck's removal costs and a letter of understanding guaranteeing payment of the contracted price of wreck removal. Melinda Merrill, a spokesman for the ship's insurer, Britannia Steam Ship, said the P&I club was willing to "negotiate" a compensation package for leaving the wreck in place.

29 February 2000 – The Philippines

The master of m bulk carrier NOL Schedar suspected of spilling oil in the Lingayen Gulf and destroying 2,700 square metres of coral reefs and other marine resources denied the spillage. In an affidavit, Captain Gregory Vargas, master of NOG Schedar, said the vessel did not commit the alleged oil spillage affecting the villages of Santiago Island, Pilar and Victory, all in the town of Bolinao, Pangasinan. Since entering Philippine waters, the vessel did not spill oil and her fuel tanks remained free of water contamination, Vargas said. He executed the affidavit to contradict claims made by the Coast Guard that it was NOL Schedar that spilled volumes of oil into the gulf on February 2. The Coast Guard has taken part in efforts to clean up the spill. The vessel had been grounded for four days ten nautical miles north-east of Santiago Island. It was reported that Vargas had been relieved as master of the vessel on January 27 when Captain David John Hancox, an Australian consultant assigned to the vessel, boarded the vessel and took over command. It was Febuary 2 when the vessel, which contained 69,000 tons of coal to be delivered to the Sual coal fired power plant, was floated and towed by two tugs to the Sual anchorage. It was further reported that when the town officials boarded the vessel after Febuary 2, they could not get any information from Vargas as Hancox was "at his back and always dictating, to Vargas, what to answer". The town mayor, Jesus Celeste, suspected that it was only after Hancox boarded the vessel that there was an oil spill. It could be Hancox who ordered the spilling of oil to lighten the vessel and enable her to float. The oil slick was seen near the shores of the villages on February 2. In his affidavit, Hancox said after he boarded the vessel on January 27, he was rapidly familiarised with the circumstances of the situation with particular reference to the safe and oil pollution aspects of the operation. He said actions were taken to prevent oil pollution such as transferring the heavy fuel oil from two tanks, where the underneath hull had holes, to a third tank. The bottom fuel oil tanks were regularly checked to prove that there had been no sea water ingress into those tanks and I could not detect any trace into those tanks, Hancox said.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has confirmed the findings of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that the oil spill in the shorelines of two towns in Pangasinan was caused by NOL Schedar on January "23". Official results of an analysis conducted by the Oil and Gas Energy Research Laboratory of DOE issued to PCG last February 22 said the two samples taken from the affected beaches in Pangasinan have almost identical hydrocarbon composition with the fuel oil samples taken from NOL Schedar. The analysis also said that very slight noticeable decrease in the concentration of some compounds specially the lower hydrocarbons in the oil spill samples compared with those in the fuel oil is expected as a result of water washing and minor biodegradation effects. Rear Admiral Euceo Fajardo PCG Commandant immediately dispatched PCG Special Operations Group divers who conducted underwater hull survey. The divers used an underwater video camera and discovered that the grounded vessel bore large holes at the port side portion of the bottom hull within compartment Nos 4 and 6 where fuel oil tanks 1 centre and 2 centre are located.

7 March 2000 – M bulk carrier NOL Schedar, suspected of spilling oil into Lingayen Gulf, has been taken to Subic Shipyard for repairs, raising fears the vessel may leave the country without paying for the damage caused to Bolinao town's marine resources. Bolinao officials claimed that Coast Guard officials did not inform them the vessel would be towed to Subic, fuelling speculation that she may be taken to China for repairs. It was estimated that about 80 percent of the vessel's hull had been damaged. The vessel's owners have been sued for damage to 2,700 square metres of coral reef, along with other marine resources.

22 March 2000 – A report from the Philippines states: a Manila regional trial court has ordered the arrest and seizure of m s bulk carrier NOL Schedar for allegedly causing an oil spill, which affected several coastal towns in Bolinao, Pangasinan province. The court issued a "writ of preliminary injunction" authorising the Philippine Coast Guard to "seize, detain or arrest NOL Schedar which is dry-docked at the Subic Shipyard and prevent her from sailing". The court acted after a complaint from the Coast Guard, which wants the ship owner, Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines (NOL), to pay the costs of the clean-up. The Coast Guard claimed NOL failed to post the required initial cash bond of P5 million (US$125,000). The complaint 1 was filed against her master Gregory A. Vargas, NOL, ship agent, Wallem Philippines Shipping and UK P&I Club representatives, Thomas Miller and Pandiman Philippines, Inc. The vessel is suspected of having caused the spill after it ran aground on Pudoc reef, 16km off Santiago island on January 23. NOL maintained the vessel did not cause the oil spill because the vessel's fuel and cargo holds were intact despite the mishap.

23 March 2000 – A report from Bolinao, Pangasinan, states: Mayor Jesus Celeste has rejected a P2 million settlement offer from owners of m bulk carrier NOL Schedar, which spilled oil and coal and destroyed the marine environment in the waters surrounding the Santiago Island here. The offer is very insulting to us, said Celeste who has filed a P200 million damage suit against the ship owner Neptune Orient Lines and Four Seasons Co. of Singapore. The vessel, which was docked at the Subic Freeport Shipyard in Olongapo City for repairs, almost got away last Saturday if not for the timely intervention of Senator Robert Jaworski, Celeste said. The vessel should not have left Sual, in the first place, but she was able to sail to Subic without our knowledge. And now, we had the information that she was about to leave for China without paying the damages in our town, he said. On learning that the vessel was set to sail to China, Celeste immediately alerted Jaworski who in turn directed the Department of Transportation and Communications to stop the vessel. We will just pursue the damage suit, Celeste told Capt. Andrew Maltas, head of Pandiman Philippines, local correspondent of the ship owners' insurance firm that offered the P2 million settlement. Fishpen operators, marginal fishermen, and the Anda municipal government are also preparing to file damage suits against the vessel owners. The Coast Guard has also reportedly filed criminal and civil cases against the vessel. Celeste lamented that the Regional Trial Court in Alaminos town, where he filed the damage suit, cannot issue a hold order because his town has not yet paid the P3 million bond. We were able to pay only P1 million docket fee, he explained.

28 March 2000 – M bulk carrier NOL Schedar has been released from detention in the Philippines after her lawyer and UK P&I Club representative posted a cash bond of P12 million (US$300,000). The vessel, detained at Subic Shipyard following charges of spilling fuel oil after she ran aground in Bolinao last January, sailed to Singapore last weekend (March 25-26) to undergo major repairs. NOL denies responsibility for the oil spill but the Philippines Coast Guard obtained a writ for the vessel's arrest. The Coast Guard said the bulker's hull bore holes from hitting a shoal, which caused the discharge of oil polluting the town's marine environment.

11 May 2000 – Representatives of the residents of Bolinao, Philippines where the Neptune Orient Lines-owned m bulk carrier NOL Schedar spilled thousands of litres of oil during her grounding in February, have rejected the small compensation sum proposed for the damage made by the spill. They said the P4 million ($97,500), provided by the local P&I correspondent Padiman, is not enough. NOL Schedar, which left Subic Shipyard and Engineering for Singapore in March after her P&I club posted a P200 million bond, is said to have spilled 57,000 litres of oil and damaged 2,700 square metres of coral reefs since she ran aground in the Lingayen Gulf. The spill is now polluting the Bolinao coastline. The vessel's owner is still facing a P12 million damage suit filed by a fish farm operator and a class suit filed by fishermen.

29 February 2000 – France

French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, yesterday announced a new FFr5 billion ($751 million) aid package to help regions affected by oil pollution from the sunken m tanker Erika and the storms which swept across France on December 26-27. A total of FFr1 billion, including FFr700 million for areas affected by oil pollution alone, will be made available this year, with the remainder following in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The tourist sector, which has seen bookings for the summer season drop dramatically, has been allocated FFr350 million. Mr Jospin announced the new package in Nantes, at the heart of the region most affected by pollution from Erika and the post-Christmas storms. He was speaking at the close of high-level government meetings organised in the city, as promised by Mr Jospin last month, to decide on measures to deal with the environmental and economic effects of the wrecking of Erika and the storms. The new package comes in addition to the measures already announced by the government on January 13. These comprised aid totalling FFr4.6 billion this year, FFr6 billion over ten years for the reconstitution of forest destroyed by the post-Christmas storms and a further FFr12 billion in the form of soft loans to the forestry sector. The French prime ministry was greeted in Nantes yesterday by a demonstration staged by some 1,000 oyster farmers, fishermen and farmers, who brought the city centre to a standstill. The demonstrators symbolically burned a small fishing boat bearing the name Erika. There were calls from the demonstrators for the government to make the Total oil group foot the bill for compensation to professions in the sea food and fishing sector, which has seen its sales drop by as much as 50 percent since the pollution of the coast by the cargo of Erika.

3 March 2000 – Four bidders have been pre-selected for the contract to recover the 12,000-15,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil remaining in the two sunken sections of m tanker Erika, which are lying in 120m of water 60km off the French coast. The four, which the French transport ministry said had been selected on the basis of their established expertise in the offshore and sub-sea contracting field, are a partnership of Bouygues Offshore of France and Norway's DSND, France's Coflexip Stena Offshore, Stolt Offshore and a grouping comprising Les Abeilles International of France, Smit Tak and Norwegian pump specialist Frank Mohn. TotalFina, which issued the tender call for the contract yesterday, said it hoped to be able to award the contract in mid April with the aim of starting work on site in early May. It estimated that pumping proper would be able to begin at the end of May or in early June and, if weather conditions were reasonable, could be completed in four months before the high tides of the autumn equinox on September 23. The issue of the tender call has been delayed by the need for the oil group and the French government to decide on the best method for dealing with the wreck of Erika. and her cargo. The government, which has the final word on the question, considered a number of possibilities submitted by TotalFina. The oil group recommended pumping as the best method for recovering the oil but also considered refloating the wreck, containing it with concrete on the seabed and incinerating it underwater. TotalFina is planning to make use of technology used for the transport of extra-heavy Orinoco crude oil in Venezuela to lift the tanker's heavy fuel oil cargo. It will use a dilutant to reduce viscosity of the oil to make pumping easier. It is also developing its own pumping system.

7 March 2000 – New oil slicks appeared at sea today off the western coast of France above the spot where m tanker Erika sank in stormy seas on December 12, officials said today. Hundreds of small patches of oil, each about three to four metres large, appeared on the ocean, spread over a distance of about 4-5km, the officials said. Erika spilled around half her 25,000 tonne cargo of oil when she broke up in stormy seas. The resulting pollution devastated 400km of coastline, killed or maimed 300,000 sea birds and affected fishing and tourism. Erika lies about 120 metres below the surface and the thousands of tonnes of oil inside were scheduled to be pumped out of her hold this spring.

10 April 2000 – Blame for the m tanker Erika oil spill has been laid firmly on the vessel's master and management by a new report from the ill-fated vessel's Italian classification society Rina. But Rina may yet have to take some blame for the disaster itself over possible lax inspection of repair work to the tanker that may have contributed to her break up. Rina's report, which is due to be made public today, claims the 1975 built tanker could have been saved, and some of Europe's worst oil pollution prevented. The master misjudged and mishandled the problems that developed 18 hours before the sinking. The vessel's technical manager did not properly support him, it is claimed. Moreover, the correct International Safety Management procedures to identify, describe and respond to the emergency were not followed. Rina has called for the establishment of a European programme of ports of refuge able to aid the masters of vessels in distress. The Italian classification society reached its conclusions after developing a new theory of Erika casualty, contradicting a theory supported in January by Beamer, the French administration investigating body. Rina has pointed the finger at the master of Erika, Krun Mathur and Panship, the vessel's Ravenna-based technical manager, saying they were mainly responsible for the loss of the vessel. Rina maintains that "subject to further investigation" it "substantially complied with the applicable rules, guidelines and procedures", an implicit admission of some failings. The loss of the vessel was caused because of an initial crack, in a submerged part of the hull, was misjudged and mishandled, allowing it to develop until the hull broke up, Rina claims. She was not lost because of a collapse of the main hull girder due to corrosion found just weeks before the incident by a Rina surveyor. The hull girder was the last part of the hull's structure to collapse, Rina says. Capt. Mathur attributed the vessel's list, some 18 hours before breaking up, to the cargo shifting into a segregated ballast tank. Instead, Rina's calculations show that the SBT 2 starboard tank was probably open to the sea due to cracking. This was never suspected by the master or by Panship's designated person. Factors which are also deemed to have contributed to the vessel's loss are the loading sequence and resulting loading condition at departure, the effect of the heated cargo, the bad sea conditions during the last voyages, and the repairs carried out during her life. "We called this report 'preliminary' because there are a number of elements that are not in our possession at the moment. But I believe this report to be a good contribution on the way to finding a detailed explanation of what happened and why," Nicola Squassafichi, Rina's chief executive, said. "As far as Rina is concerned, obviously we have classed the vessel and certified the ISM compliance of both vessel and ship management companies. But this cannot stop the casualty arising from mishandling of problems which could have been solved." Rina maintains that the initial cracking might have started from a defect or a brittle fracture near the bilge. The most likely origin of such a defect could be the repair work completed in August 1998 at Bijela shipyard, in Montenegro, during the first classification survey carried out by Rina. Five access openings were made by the yard in the curved shell plating around the area where the vessel broke up. Rina says that those openings were closed with the original steel plates, but that the presence of a latent defect there cannot be excluded. Probes of the Bijela repairs remain have so far found little. Carmelo Patane, the Rina surveyor who checked the repairs and was in charge of the special survey, is presently reported to be suffering from stress and on temporary leave. Rina said it had not the investigative powers to question Panship's inspector nor the shipyard.

17 April 2000 – TotalFina that chartered m tanker Erika said in a statement issued today that all fuel oil from the vessel will be pumped out by the end of September. TotalFina also said that all leaks in the vessel have been plugged. But the company acknowledged it cannot predict how long the black tide of the approximately 11,000 tons of fuel oil which did escape from her damaged hull will continue to stain the shore. Volunteers and soldiers, off-duty firemen and police have worked for many months sifting sand as well as cleaning out and hosing down rocks and sand with non-chemical solvents. Signs across much of Brittany's coast proclaim beaches closed until they are cleaned of hydrocarbons from Erika. Oyster and mussel farming, a significant industry in the area, quickly shut down after the tanker spill, though it has begun to recover. By the end of April, the industry will have returned to about two-thirds its level of last year, in about half the region, officials have said. Among the most affected shores are those of the Loire-Atlantic region. Local officials say bookings are down by at least 40 percent in most of the area.

21 April 2000 – Offshore contractors Coflexip Stena Offshore and Stolt Comex Seaway have won the contract to recover the 12,000-15,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil still in the sunken m tanker Erika. The TotalFinaElf oil group said yesterday that it had awarded the contract to the two in a joint venture after consultation with the French government and its experts. It did not explain why it had chosen the two offshore contractors in preference to the salvors grouping formed by Les Abeilles International and Smit Tak. It said that operations at sea would start at the end of May with preparation of the two sections of the tanker's hull for the start of pumping. Pumping itself would get under way before the end of June with the aim of completing work before the end of September. TotalFinaElf has direct responsibility for the FFr400 million ($59 million) pumping operation but CSO and SCS will have charge of all operations at sea. They will make use of m oil pollution recovery vessel British Shield, which is equipped with large-scale containment barrages and pumps to deal with any spillage, d-e diving support vessels CSO Constructor and Seaway Kestrel, as well as divers and remotely operated submarines, and d-e processing tanker Crystal Ocean. All four vessels are equipped with dynamic positioning systems which TotalFinaElf said would enable them to work in sea conditions up to force six or seven (strong breeze or near gale). A shuttle tanker will also be used to transport the oil brought to the surface to the Donges oil refinery on the River Loire where it will be processed. French transport minister, Jean-Claude Gayssot, said on Monday that he would be paying particular attention to safety and environmental protection in giving the government's authorisation for the contract. "The government will act to obtain maximal conditions at the level of human and environmental safety," he said. "It will be the highest bidder in these domains who should get the business." The minister was speaking after seeing a demonstration of a pilot plant developed by TotalFinaElf for fluidising the heavy fuel oil contained in the tanks of Erika. The oil company estimates that the use of a dilutant to fluidise the oil will enable it to recover a mixture in which the oil will represent 90 percent, compared with 3 percent for the mixture produced when heated sea water is used.

24 April 2000 – More oil from the sunken m tanker Erika washed ashore on a handful of France's Atlantic seaboard beaches over the Easter holiday weekend, bringing fresh misery to the beleaguered tourism industry. Local authorities have launched an international advertising drive to convince people that France's north-western Atlantic coast was clean following the Erika disaster last December. But as if on cue, patches of oil have smeared the coast again over the past 48 hours, forcing the closure of two popular tourist beaches on the first major holiday weekend of the year. "We are getting very tired with all this. Our businesses are starting to suffer, fewer foreign tourists are coming and the arrival of more oil on Easter Day was a real blow," said Yves Metaireau, the mayor of La Baule in the Loire-Atlantique region. TotalFina, which had chartered the tanker, last week signed a contract with two companies to pump out the remaining oil, however the difficult operation is not expected to be finished before September. Local communities have complained about delays in starting the pumping operation and fear that leaks from the Erika might threaten the crucial summer season.

29 February 2000 – Cape Elizabeth, Maine, USA

Federal and state officials hope to plug a leak in a recently sunk fishing trawler that is slowly emptying diesel fuel into the ocean off Cape Elizabeth. Officials hoped to send a diver down the wreck of m trawler Jessica Anne today. The vessel sank in 150 feet of water about two miles off the coast on Febuary 20, after striking a submerged object that ruptured her hull. The leak is shown by a small sheen of diesel at the surface where the boat sank, according to Lt Richard Timme of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office in Portland. It is leaking about one gallon per hour, he said. "There's still over 10,000 gallons in the vessel," Timme said. "It's enough to trigger our concerns." The leak has not yet affected the shoreline or wildlife, Timme said. Diesel evaporates after rising to the surface, he said. Coast Guard investigators' report on the cause of the sinking has not been released vet. Maine's Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Marine Resources have been helping them monitor the site of the wreck. The agencies hope to seal the leak and then figure out how to remove the fuel before it escapes. The depth of the wreck and the winds offshore have made it difficult for divers to try to reach the vessel. The dive is being conducted by Clean Harbours Environmental Services of South Portland and Aqua-Tech of Warren, Timme said.

15 March 2000 – Milford Haven, UK

Milford Haven Port Authority goes to the Appeal Court tomorrow in an attempt to overturn the £4 million fine imposed in the wake of the 1996 spill caused by m tanker Sea Empress. The authority was prosecuted by the Environment Agency and found guilty of contravening section 85(1) of the 1991 Water Resources Act after the accident, in which 72,000 tonnes of oil was spilt. Although court action was also brought against Milford Haven Harbour-master Captain Mark Andrews, he walked free from the court after the judge found he had no case to answer. The Environment Agency's use of the Water Resources Act to prosecute Milford Haven has proved controversial and was strongly criticised by former Master of the Rolls Lord Donaldson of Lymington. Lord Donaldson said that, under the terms 4 of a memorandum of understanding signed between the predecessors of the Environment Agency and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, "it was for the Environment Agency to prosecute 'for discharges from land-based operations or from a riverine source' but for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency or the harbour authority to prosecute for 'offences from offshore installations and discharges from ships'." Both legal experts and environmentalists will be hoping that, whatever the outcome of the Milford Haven appeal, some guidance will be forthcoming to clarify the position for any future prosecution for a marine pollution incident. Milford Haven was originally ordered to pay the fine in two tranches, although payment of the first has been delayed pending the appeal. The authority was also ordered to pay £825,000 in costs. The recently formed Sentencing Advisory Panel said in recent advice to the Court of Appeal that sentencing guidelines for environmental offences should be set according to the means of those concerned and that for large companies fines should be "substantial enough to have a real economic impact which, together with the attendant bad publicity resulting from prosecution, will create sufficient pressure on management and shareholders to tighten regulator compliance and change company policy." According to Daniel Lawrence of law firm Lovells: "There ought to be some system of panels of magistrates and judges who have heard previous environmental cases" in the interest of sentencing consistency, because relatively few environmental cases come before the courts. The thorny problem of responder immunity has been high on the agenda in the salvage industry since the Sea Empress spill. Salvors have expressed concern that they could be open to prosecution if they spill oil during a salvage operation – for example in pressing up damaged oil tanks – in an attempt to avoid greater pollution. It is hoped that the appeal hearing will result in additional guidance on the issue.

16 March 2000 – Britain's record fine for pollution, imposed on a port authority after m tanker Sea Empress ran aground in 1996, was slashed by the Court of Appeal today. After a one-day hearing of the case the court cut the fine on Milford Haven Port Authority to £750,000 from the original £4 million. The court was headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, who said that while fines had to reflect the seriousness of the matter, the fine of £4 million imposed in 1999 was "manifestly excessive". The Port Authority had appealed against the size of the fine, imposed because of the way it handled the disaster. Lord Bingham said the court had taken into account the Authority's guilty plea, the size of fines in comparable cases and the Authority's ability to pay such a large sum. The Port Authority was even given time to pay the reduced fine with the court ruling it should pay £250,000 at the beginning of June and two subsequent instalments of £250,000 at three-monthly intervals.

18 March 2000 – Chatham Islands, New Zealand

Rare Chatham Islands oyster catchers, albatrosses, and other birds are at risk after the sinking of a Wellington-based m stern trawler Seafresh 1 carrying thousands of litres of diesel fuel. Last night dozens of Chatham Islanders, under the command of Maritime Safety Authority officials, were working to contain oil spilled from the wreck of the 45 metre vessel, which sank off Hanson Bay on the east coast of the Chathams yesterday morning. The vessel, towed to the Chatham Islands last Friday (March 10) after catching fire and taking on water, was carrying 102 tonnes of diesel fuel and about 10 tonnes of hydraulic and lubricating oils. The Department of Conservation's Chatham Islands area manager, John Mason, said the spill was potentially an environmental disaster. "It has the potential to be a serious threat to the east coast of the Chathams so we are making plans to deal with any wildlife that might be affected," he said. Islanders are also concerned about the threat to Te Whanga Lagoon on the east coast of the Chathams. A boom has been put across the Hikurangi Channel, which connects the lagoon to the sea, to prevent oil entering. Residents had been concerned that the fishing boat was tied up in an easterly position in strong easterly winds before she sank. Nearby resident Tim Gregory-Hunt said a number of complaints had been made to Seafresh about the boat being moored in such a vulnerable position. Seafresh New Zealand managing director Heng Lim said he could not respond to the comments until he had more information on the position of the vessel. "The vessel was being monitored every day by the local harbour master and crew and she had last been checked 12 hours before she sank," he said. Maritime Safety Authority director Russell Kilvington said a "tier-three" emergency had been declared for only the second time in New Zealand history. Mr Kilvington said it was not clear how much oil had seeped from tanks on the ship which sank whole, but with some breather vents open. "All I can say is that the ship has not broken open. Oil is onboard in tanks, and is seeping rather than gushing," Mr Kilvington said. Oil-spill response equipment and extra trained personnel are on their way to the Chatham Islands to assist with the response. "Although little oil has spilt at this point, it was considered necessary to mobilise resources at a tier-three level because of the sensitivity of the area, the quantity of oil the vessel was carrying, and the limited resources on the island," Mr Kilvington said. National On-Scene Commander Alex Van Wijngaarden, who by coincidence had been running a four-day oil spill response training course with islanders, said many people were helping with the response.

22 March 2000 – Permanent metal plates will replace wooden plugs used to stop diesel leaking from m stern trawler Seafresh 1 after she sank off the coast of the Chatham Islands. The Maritime Safety Authority said the wooden plugs were necessary to provide immediate stoppage of diesel leaking from the vents after the vessel sank on Friday (March 17). It was planned to fit the permanent metal plates at the end of this week. A salvage dive team found two moderate leaks and one smaller hole weeping diesel from a vent-pipe flange. By late Monday afternoon, the two large leaks were resealed and the flange of the weeping vent tightened. The MSA said it was likely all three leaks were caused by heavy seas overnight on Sunday. Visual observation yesterday showed clear seas and no sign of diesel on the water. The salvage team is developing a draft salvage plan for the vessel which will take several days to be finalised.

27 March 2000 – Sunken m stern trawler Seafresh 1 has to be moved within a month because of an invasive seaweed risk. The vessel sank in Hanson Bay in the Chatham Islands on March 17 and last week was found to be carrying the Asian seaweed undaria, which has been declared an unwanted organism. The Ministry of Fisheries deputy chief technical officer has issued a direction under the Biosecurity Act that the Seafresh 1 must be moved within 30 days and either sunk in at least 1,500m of water or relocated to an area where undaria already exists. Ministry communications manager Alan Meek said experts believed undaria was not present on the Chatham Islands. The hull of the Seafresh 1 was likely to harbour juvenile and microscopic stages of the plant which had the potential to become a long-term potential source of undaria.

30 March 2000 – The Ministry of Fisheries says it is willing to be flexible about removing the wreck of m stern trawler Seafresh 1 by the Chatham Islands. The Ministry has ordered the wreck of Seafresh 1 be removed within 30 days because of the threat of spreading the invasive seaweed undaria, but Auckland marine salvage expert Neil Hayter has said that was unrealistic. "It could take longer than that just to retrieve the oil," Mr Hayter, a director of Dunsford Marine Ltd, said. Ministry of Fisheries communications manager Alan Meek said yesterday the ministry was talking to the vessel's insurers and the Maritime Safety Authority about the issue. The managing director of the vessel's owners, Seafresh New Zealand, Heng Lim said yesterday that no decision had been made about the wreck, but she could be scuttled offshore. It was impossible to refit a vessel of her size. Seafresh had begun to look for a replacement, he said. He expected to have a clearer picture of the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the vessel and the subsequent oil leak when the insurers and the Maritime Safety Authority reports were completed next week.

5 April 2000 – Java, Indonesia

Oil from Greek-owned, Malta-flagged m tanker Kingfisher, 47,525 gt, built 1975, which ran aground off Cilacap port in south central Java, has washed up on the Indonesian island's beaches. The Kingfisher, belonging to Piraeus-based Estoril Navigation Co. Ltd, lost about 200 barrels of oil. "The vessel was proceeding to port with a pilot on board when she touched bottom," a spokesman said yesterday. "She was time chartered to Pertamina."

5 April 2000 – A clean-up operation is continuing following an oil spill in Indonesia. More than 25 kilometres of coastline has been damaged on the island of Java. Tourist beaches and fishing harbours have been affected by the spill. The contamination began on Saturday (April 1) when an oil tanker (m tanker Kingfisher) carrying 600,000 barrels of fuel struck a nearby reef. The tanker was making her way into the Cilacap refinery on the south coast of central Java. A large stretch of coastline has now been affected. Up to 1,000 local people are being paid by the state-owned oil company Pertamina to take part in the clean-up. Pertamina management is considering whether it will sue the "Singapore-based" owners of the oil tanker. But shrimp farm operators in the region have already announced they will take legal action.

6 April 2000 – Following received from the Piraeus owners of m tanker Kingfisher, timed 09.40, UTC: Kingfisher, fully loaded and with pilot on board, touched bottom off Cilacap last week. Despite efforts of crew, about 200 barrels of oil were spilled. Kingfisher is presently in Cilacap, where 6,000 tonnes of oil have so far been discharged. The remaining cargo will be discharged and distributed to owners. Plugging repairs to the vessel's hull are proceeding. An oil response team has been sent to the area and salvage surveyors are on board. The vessel's hull may have twisted when she touched bottom and the cargo consequently shifted. No full survey has been possible so far. There are cracks to the hull structure and obvious bottom damage.

7 April 2000 – M tanker Kingfisher grounded among buoys No. 2 and 3, at Cilacap in approximately lat. 007 45.20S, long. 109 03.10E, at 15.05, local time, April 1. Vessel was refloated immediately with the assistance of four tugs and now alongside single point mooring Pertamina UP-IV, Cilacap for discharging. Extent of leakage from starboard side is 160cm by 60cm, 340cm by 120cm and 410cm by 60cm. Understand repairs have not yet commenced.

9 April 2000 – Hundreds of fisherman have demanded a stake in cleaning up an oil spill from leaking m tanker Kingfisher which polluted about 25 kilometres of shoreline in Java, a report said today. Packing the Cilacap Bay beach, the fishermen from seven groups protested yesterday, calling on local oil and gas company Pertamina to hire them for manual cleaning on the beach, the Kompas daily said. Pertamina hired between 2,000 to 3,000 locals to clean the beach after crude oil leaked from the Kingfisher when she grounded on a reef offshore Cilacap on April 1. Pertamina spokesman, Husni Banser, said the demonstration was partly due to a misunderstanding. On Thursday (April 6), the Islamic New Year, cleaning operations were halted to honour the holiday and many fishermen thought Pertamina was ceasing its cleaning operations. Pertamina, he said, had already shelled out over 260 million rupiah (US$34,667) in wages so far and could not recruit the whole fishing force in Cilacap, estimated at some 22,000 men, for the clean-up drive. Banser said Pertamina and the association of fishermen agreed to divide the work into shifts to employ as many people as possible.

26 April 2000 – Indonesian officials are seeking the detention and investigation of m tanker Kingfisher, which hit a reef and leaked some 4,000 barrels of oil into the sea off the southern coast of Java, according to a report yesterday. "We have made a recommendation that the vessel be detained and should pay compensation for having polluted our environment," Environment Minister Sonny Keraf told the Bisnis Indonesia daily newspaper. The recommendation was made to the local authorities in Cilacap district, whose waters were polluted. The vessel hit a reef as she was nearing Cilacap harbour to deliver crude oil from East Kalimantan to a state Pertamina refinery on April 1. Officials have said that at least 4,000 of the 600,000 barrels of crude on board spilled into the sea, polluting over 25km of coastline. Marine Exploration and Fisheries Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmaja was also quoted by the daily as saying the vessel should be investigated because she was reported to have approached the port without a tug and the construction of her hull did not meet international standards. "According to the rules, a vessel of a deadweight of 80,000 tonnes should use a double hull. This vessel is being investigated," Mr Sarwono said, adding that the vessel was suspected to only have a single hull.

19 April 2000 – Orange County, California, USA

A legal settlement from the oil spill caused when s tanker American Trader ran over her own anchor and spilled more than 400,000 gallons of oil into the marine waters and beaches off the coast of Huntington Beach on February 7, 1990, will pump $5 million into Newport Beach and $3.8 million into Huntington Beach for coastal recreation projects under an agreement reached yesterday. The plan for how to spend a total of $11.6 million was negotiated between the cities, county and state agencies. The out-of-court settlement in September with the tanker owners provided the money for the recreation projects in the area impacted by the spill.

12 May 2000 – Venezuela

Konstantinos Spiropulos, master of m tanker Nissos Amorgos, has been sentenced in his absence to 16 months in prison by a Venezuelan court over the 1997 oil spill in the Maracaibo Channel. The operator of the Greek-flagged tanker, Glatki (Hellas) Maritime, expressed "considerable concern and dismay" at the judgment that has been handed down under the country's Environmental Criminal Law. Preliminary legal advice showed that there were "considerable grounds" for an appeal, a spokesman said. Captain Spiropulos is at present free on bail in Greece, but it is not clear whether he will be forced to return to Venezuela to serve his sentence. According to Glafki, Judge Alide Estrada had found the master to be negligent "on certain grounds which were not alleged by the prosecution and appear misconceived". The company said yesterday that the court "had decided to disregard" both evidence presented about the condition of the channel and the master's case that false information was provided to the ship on the channel's condition and depth. Dagfinn Lunde, managing director of independent tanker owners' association Intertanko, said that while it was too early to comment in detail on the judgment Intertanko had "never seen proof that [Captain Spiropulos] had done anything wrong" and it had not even been proved that the master was outside the channel at the time of the accident. Nissos Amorgos went aground in the Maracaibo Channel on February 28, 1997, and caused Venezuela's worst environmental incident when 4,000 tonnes of crude were spilt. The incident sparked concern about the condition of the waterway, which was heightened by a spate of similar groundings following the accident. A report by the Venezuelan Navy's Hydrography and Navigation Department, commissioned by the criminal court of Zulia following the accident showed there were "several magnetic anomalies of moderate intensity" between buoys 21-22 and 19-20 in the channel and concluded that these were probably "large metallic objects". Nissos Amorgos grounded near buoy 21. Allegations were also made at the time that the Instituto de Canalizaciones, which is responsible for channel maintenance, suppressed a chart showing extensive silting between buoys 12-26.