JOHOR BARU: The owners of the two vessels which collided at Pasir Gudang Port on Tuesday night have been ordered to post a security bond of RM1mil each to the state government.
State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the bond was to guarantee that the owners would take responsibility for the clean-up operation following the oil spill in the area.
"The Department of Environment has also issued an order to detain the two ships to get them to immediately pay up RM1mil each to the state government or face legal action.
"If they fail to pay, the state government will hold onto their ships in accordance with Section 38 of the Environmental Quality Act 1974," he told reporters at the state Environment Department Office here Thursday.
Ayub said action would also be taken under Section 27 of the Act for court action to seize the ships.
"However, the security deposit will be returned if the state government is satisfied with the clean-up but we will calculate total cost for cleaning which will be claimed from the ship owners," he said.
According to Ayub, an order under Section 31 of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 was also issued to allow Johor Port Bhd to remove the ships' cargoes to facilitate cleaning operation.
At the same time, he said it was the responsibility of the ship owners to compensate some 350 fishermen who were affected by the incident.
"We have asked the Fisheries Department to collate and file on losses suffered by the fishermen," said Ayub.
Fish and mussel breeding areas in Kampung Pasir Putih, Kampung Asli Teluk Kabung and Kampung Asli Kuala Masai have been identified as areas affected by the oil spill.
South Johor Fishermen's Association chairman Azli Mohd Aziz said a survey at the breeding areas found traces of oil stuck to the farm nets causing fish to die.
He added that the fish farmers were now trying to clean the nets with water jets to get rid of the trapped oil.
Azli said representatives from the Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM) were monitoring the situation.
Meanwhile, the Johor branch of Malaysian Nature Society has expressed concern over destruction of marine habitat.
Its adviser Vincent Chow said the area was ideal for fish and mussel breeding.
"The Strait of Johor is not an open sea ... we are worried the oil pollution will spread when the high tide comes in.
"With the monsoon season, we fear strong winds will push the oil spills further harming the mangrove trees in the area," he said when contacted here.
However, Chow was optimistic that the Johor Port Bhd in collaboration with agencies in the area have found the best solution to prevent the pollution from worsening.
In the incident, a container ship suffered a power outage due to a generator failure causing loss in navigational control and subsequently ramming into a berthed container ship.
The impact tore a hole in the other ship's hull, causing it to leak about 300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the Johor Strait. - Bernama