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Petron-hired survey vessel leaves with no solution on tanker

September 6, 2006

•Mayors demand re-floating of sunken Solar 1 oil tanker

By GEROME DALIPE IV
and RYAN B. LACHICA

ILOILO City – The Japanese survey vessel that Petron Corp. hired to locate the sunken MT Solar 1 left Guimaras without definite recommendations on what to do with the ill-fated vessel. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) expressed disappointment.

But mayors of Negros Occidental are demanding the immediate salvaging or resurfacing of the MT Solar 1 oil tanker from the Guimaras Strait. This demand is non-negotiable, they stressed.

Iloilo Coast Guard chief Commander Harold Jarder said they wanted “a clear confirmation directly from the officials of the Japanese survey on what to do with the oil cargo.”

Shin Sei Maru is equipped with a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Hakuyo 2000. It has a sonar capable of searching the seabed at a depth of two kilometers.

Owned by Fukuda Salvage and Marine Works Company Limited, Petron hired it to detect the ill-fated tanker carrying 13,000 barrels or 2,195,439 metric tons of bunker fuel.

The tanker was finally spotted Thursday last week, 20 days after it sank last August 11.

Jarder said the Japanese survey vessel left Guimaras on Saturday without offering any immediate solution.

Petron said Shin Sei Maru will release their findings next week yet, a month after the vessel had sunk.

Authorities earlier said they have three options – re-float the tanker, entombed it or siphon off the remaining oil from its compartments.

Jarder said the Norwegian embassy offered help to the Coast Guard. A Norwegian company capable of re-floating the tanker is meeting Philippine officials.

In Bacolod City, Negros Occidental mayors agreed to call for Solar I’s re-floating during yesterday’s Peace and Order Council Meeting at the Provincial Capitol. Gov. Joseph Marañon supports the mayors’ demand.

The council is wary that the prolonged stay of the tanker in the strait would lead to more oil leaks.

Lt. Cmdr. Edgar Ibañez of the PCG-Bacolod City reported to the council that the Japanese survey vessel, Shen Sei Maru, had not yet recommended any action on the sunken oil tanker.

Ibañez said the Coast Guard would be meeting on Thursday with officials of Norwegian company, PRAMO, and assess the company’s capability to re-float the oil tanker.

He said the company has a remotely operated off-loading system capable of surfacing the vessel.

“In their experience, it would take about six months to re-surface the vessel,” said Ibañez.

Another option, said Ibañez, is to siphon the remaining bunker oil from the tanker. Panay News

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