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Remaining bunker oil in Solar I to be siphoned out

September 13, 2006

By GEROME DALIPE IV and DAVID ISRAEL SINAY
Panay News, Sept. 13, 2006

ILOILO City – The remaining bunker fuel in the sunken M/T Solar 1 will be siphoned out, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) announced. But it remains unclear when the siphoning would start.

Holes could be drilled in the tanker’s fuel tanks through which tubes can be inserted to siphon out the bunker fuel. But the plan still has to get the approval of the International Oil Pollution Compensation, said IOPC representative Joe Nichols.

During the siphoning, “there is little risk of a significant release of oil from the vessel,” he added.

Nichols said the IOPC could choose between at least six companies from Norway, Italy, and The Netherlands to take out the remaining oil from the tanker.

The Philippine Coast Guard favors the siphoning. If the PCG-recommended Norwegian company – Framo Engineering – would be hired to siphon the remaining bunker oil, it would take at least one month for it to arrive in the Philippines.

The PCG recommended the Norwegian company, citing its experience and knowledge in handling such cases.

Task Force Guimaras chairman Rafael Coscolluela said, however, that it remains uncertain if the Norwegian company would be tapped.

NDCC chairman and Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. made the announcement on the siphoning yesterday in a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo. He said the decision was based on the video footage recently taken by the Japanese survey vessel Shin Sei Maru. The tanker, some 600 meters beneath the surface, appeared stable.

Nichols said the IOPC may decide on the plan in a week’s time. Petron Corp., which chartered Solar I, is a member of the IOPC.

Nichols said an estimated 1.3 million of the two million liters of bunker fuel has leaked out of Solar I since August 11.

It also remains to be seen if IOPC would shoulder the cost of the siphoning, which could take around 20 days, Nichols added.

If the IOPC decides to shoulder the siphoning, it would take several more weeks to plan the operations, Nichols said.

Should the IOPC reject the recommendation from the Fukada Marine and Salvage Works whose Shin Sei Maru surveyed the sunken tanker, Cruz said the Philippine government could spend for the siphoning.

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