BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): The Royal Thai Navy set up an emergency operations centre on Thursday (Jan 27) to handle a major oil spill off Rayong’s coast, with officials confident that the situation would ease in about five days.
Vice Admiral Pokkrong Monthatpalin, spokesman of the Royal Thai Navy, held a press conference to announce the establishment of the emergency centre.
Also present at the press conference were Pornpimol Charoensong, director of the Water Quality Control Division of the Pollution Control Department, Pithak Wattanapongpisal, director of the Marine Safety and Environment Office of the Marine Department, and Dr Pornsri Sutthanarak, deputy director-general of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department.
The emergency centre will coordinate with other government agencies to dispose of the spilled crude oil as fast as possible, the spokesman promised.
He said the centre instructed the First Naval Area to set up an on-scene command to draft strategies for disposing of the oil.
Rear Admiral Wichanu Thupa-ang, director of the Security Affairs Office of the Naval Operation Department, said the operation would involve using buoys to trap the spilled oil and a skimmer to suck the oil into tanks for disposal later by the Industry Department.
The Navy will also use buoys to try to re-direct the oil – that was heading ashore – into the deep sea, where it will be trapped and disposed of.
As for the oil that has already reached the shore, officials will use water hoses to wash rocks and bulldozers to scoop up contaminated sand for removal.
Each disposal team would work only four hours a day and would be in full protective gear to avoid direct contact with dangerous chemicals, Wichanu said.
Star Petroleum Refining said in a statement that the oil started leaking at 9.06pm on Tuesday at its single point mooring – a floating jetty that allows petroleum tankers to transfer crude oil for the company’s refinery in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate.
Star Petroleum initially announced that the leak could be as high as 400,000 litres, but Pithak said the company in its latest estimation claimed the spill involved 20,000 to 50,000 litres, judging from some 5,300 litres of crude oil left over from the leakage.
Pithak said an aerial survey by a helicopter seemed to confirm that the spilled oil was about 20,000 litres.
He said the clean-up operation could take about five days but this would also depend on the weather. There are currently no strong winds, so the spilled oil was drifting slowly towards the shore, Pithak added.
He said the Navy’s help had been sought to monitor the wind direction and the floating oil mass.
Pornsri told the press conference that the Marine and Coastal Resources Department would sue the company that caused the spill. The money would be used to rehabilitate the environment following any impact in the future.
She made it clear that if the spill reached the coast, it could affect 150 rai of coral and 300 rai of seagrass, and it could take time to rehabilitate the environment after the damage.