Singapore beachfront shops face thin crowds after oil spill forces beach closures

The oil spill along the shoreline of East Coast Park as seen from Bedok Jetty at about 10am on June 16. - ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): Beachfront businesses have taken a hit after thick sheets of black oil washed up on multiple coasts around the island, following an oil spill at Pasir Panjang Terminal on June 14.

Some are faring worse than others, even as the massive clean-up operation advances.

Water sports joints have suspended all sea activities indefinitely as large swathes of the soiled East Coast Park (ECP) coastline have been cordoned off and swimming banned at Sentosa’s Tanjong, Siloso and Palawan beaches, they told The Straits Times.

“The crowd today is half the usual (size),” said Mr Max Ong, assistant general manager of Aloha Sea Sports Centre.

The ECP institution rents water sports equipment, runs classes, and operates a cafe, which has been “very quiet” because of the beach closure, said Mr Ong.

A steep drop in takings is expected for as long as the oil slick remains, he added, though the “damaged beach” is the sadder sight.

Water sports company Ninja Kayakers Foilers also scrapped an eFoil - a kind of motorised surfboard - class at ECP on June 16.

The outing has been postponed indefinitely, said founder Clarence Chua.

“Nothing on this scale has happened since we started up in 2019,” he said. “It’s troublesome.”

The company is eyeing about $2,000 in losses if the situation drags on and postponed classes have to be cancelled, he added, though activities should continue in the clean northern waters.

At Sentosa’s beach clubs, cancellations have been streaming in, with some patrons repelled by the “petrol station-like” odour.

But Rumours Beach Club at Siloso - which logged about six same-day cancellations on June 16 - is holding up well, said club manager Gilbert Goh.

“It’s Father’s day and the eve of a public holiday, so the crowd is still okay. We’re a family-friendly establishment and we’ve got a ballon-sculpting activity for the kids,” he said.

The mood is cheery, with customers still going for dips in the swimming pool, added Mr Goh, though the morning crowd was a little sparser than it should have been for a long weekend.

“It’s not so bad,” he said.

Workers taking part in clean-up efforts at East Coast Park at about 11am on June 16. - ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUIWorkers taking part in clean-up efforts at East Coast Park at about 11am on June 16. - ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

At 2.20pm on June 14, the Netherlands-flagged dredger Vox Maxima struck a stationary Singapore-flagged bunker vessel at Pasir Panjang Terminal, causing oil to leak from its damaged cargo tank into the sea - less than 10km from Sentosa island.

Tidal currents deposited the oil along shorelines at Sentosa, Labrador Nature Reserve, the Southern Islands, Marina South Pier and ECP, authorities said in a joint statement on June 15.

There have been no further leaks since the evening of June 14 and all escaped oil has been treated with dispersants, they added.

A contingent of 18 response craft were deployed to contain and clean up the spill, added the statement by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), National Parks Board (NParks), National Environment Agency (NEA) and Sentosa Development Corporation.

As at June 15, close to 1,500m of container booms had been set up, with absorbent booms in place to sop up encroaching oil at Berlayer Creek and the Rocky Shore at Labrador Nature Reserve.

As a precaution, oil absorbent booms were also deployed at West Coast Park -- an unaffected area -- to protect the mangroves at the Marsh Garden. - The Straits Times/ANN

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