Three oil spill incidents near the Southern Islands in two weeks in Jan and Feb 2014

First, there were two, now a third collision adds to the toll of oil spilled in Singapore’s Southern shores.

The first two collisions occurred between chemical tanker “Lime Galaxy” and container ship “Feihe” o 29 Jan 2014 and between container ship “NYK Themis” and barge “AZ Fuzhou” on 30 Jan 2014. A total of 680 metric tonnes of fuel oil were spilt near the beaches of Kusu and St. John’s Islands. MPA reports that the affected areas have since been cleaned up by the Maritime Port Authority (MPA), National Environment Agency (NEA) and other agencies.

A third spill occurred on 10 Feb 2014. MPA reported that container ship “Hammonia Thracium” and chemical tanker “Zoey” collided off Sebarok Island, resulting in a spillage of 80 metric tonnes of bunker fuel.

oil slick at seringat-kias

Oil slick at Seringat-Kias from St. John’s Island Marine Laboratory

While all the involved vessels are now in stable conditions, the same is not certain for Singapore’s reefs. Our shores boost a rich biodiversity of over 200 species of hard corals and other organisms such as sea stars, sponges and anemones, many of which are endemic to the region. They remain susceptible to acute and long-term physiological effects due to oil contamination and a destabilization of the fragile ecosystem.

With about 1000 vessels in Singapore waters at any one time, the risk of a catastrophic accident remains ever-present. Yet, the devastating news of the oil spill is but one of many challenges that Singapore’s marine biodiversity faces. From marine litter choking our waters to land reclamation resulting in habitat loss, the survival of Singapore’s unprotected marine life is constantly under threat.

However, the outlook on the health of our precious coastal habitats need not be invariably despondent. While we may not be able to do much about collisions of vessels, you can make an effort to keep up to date on the latest information and be conscious in your daily actions to minimize the impact on the environment.

You will find more updates on the oil spill and information about the biodiversity of our Southern Islands on Wildshores and a preliminary assessment of the situation on Kusu Island by Peiyan.

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