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Bunker fuel siphoning reset to February

November 22, 2006

BY NESTOR BURGOS JR.
Visayan Daily Star
Nov. 22, 2006

ILOILO CITY – The operation to pump out the remaining oil from the sunken tanker Solar I will start in February, not January as earlier announced, and is expected to last for 20 days, an official of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund said.

IOPC Deputy Director Joe Nichols said the start of the operation has been moved back to allow the construction of specific equipment to be used in the operation.

The Shipowners’ Protection Limited, the insurance firm of the sunken tanker Solar I, and the IOPC has contracted the underwater construction company, Sonsub, to undertake the operation.

Nichols said they chose Sonsub over two other companies because it had the experience in removing oil from wreckage in deep sea. The Solar I sits 640 meters deep on the seabed.

Sonsub expects to finish the work in 20 days, said Nichols.

The operation will involve the use of a dynamic-positioning vessel that can maintain its position without anchoring while on the waters above the wreck.

Remote operated vessels (ROVs) will drill two holes on the deck of the sunken tanker to allow the water to come in through one hole and for the remaining oil to come out from the other hole.

The oil will be suctioned by “hoppers,”sealed containers shaped like inverted buckets, and transferred to tanks on board the dynamic-positioning vessel when the containers float on the surface.

The operation is estimated to cost between $8 to 12 million. The actual cost would depend on the duration of the operation and the amount of fuel left inside the tanker. The Coast Guard estimates that around 300,000 liters of bunker fuel have leaked from the total cargo of 2 million liters.

Nichols and representatives of Shipowners’ Protection Limited and Sonsub will meet with Coast Guard officials here to discuss the details and method and operation and to get their approval.

The Coast Guard will provide assistance to the operation including pollution-response capability on stand by in case anything goes wrong with the operation, said Nichols.

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