Impact of Tuesday’s oil spill off Thailand's Rayong 'could be worse than in 2013'

BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): A massive oil spill of 400,000 litres off the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong on Tuesday (Jan 25) night led to concerns over its marine environmental impact with some fearing it could be much worse than the spill in 2013.

Star Petroleum Refining Plc said in a statement that the oil leakage occurred at 9.06pm at its single point mooring, which is a floating jetty offshore to allow petroleum tankers to transfer crude oil for its refinery in the industrial estate.

The statement said the company has dispatched emergency teams to apply all necessary emergency measures for dealing with an oil spill.

The company has also alerted all government agencies concerned as well as adjacent communities, the Environmental Monitoring and Control Centre of Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate and the Emergency Incident Command Centre. Other companies in the area were also alerted to the oil spill, the statement added.

Star Petroleum Refining apologised for the accident and pledged to investigate.

The company announced in a subsequent statement that it had managed to stop the leakage from its undersea pipe at 12.18am on Wednesday and it had brought the situation under control.

It said it had deployed boats to spray chemicals to get rid of the spilled oil and the company would survey the area in the morning to assess the situation.

The Pollution Control Department said that its Oil Map simulation predicted the spilled crude oil could reach Mae Rampueng Beach and Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park in Rayong at 5pm on Friday. The department said the areas could be hit with 180,000 litres of the spilled crude oil.

Puchong Saritchaikul, director of the First Marine and Coastal Resources Office, said there was a small leak in the underwater pipe and the 0.9-centimetre hole was caused by biological degradation, mainly caused by barnacles.

Pollution Control Department director-general Atthapol Charonechansa and Marine and Coastal Resources Department chief Sophon Thongdee are visiting the area on Wednesday afternoon to evaluate the situation.

The spill prompted marine life expert Thon Thamrongnawasawat to warn that the situation could be worse for Rayong than in 2013.

Thon, a marine life expert, posted on his Facebook wall that the current spill was more massive than in 2013 and the northward wind could cause some of the oil to reach the Rayong coastal line.

He said the north wind might help Koh Samet escape disaster but residents of the tourist destination island should be on alert because the island is not far from the shore.

In July 2013, the oil pipe of PTT Global Chemical leaked while it was receiving crude oil from a Greek oil tanker, causing a spill of 50,000 litres of crude oil.

The accident, which happened some 20km southeast of Map Ta Phut, damaged tourism on Koh Samet and caused marine environmental impact for a few years.

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