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Solar 1 fuel off-loading in Bacolod

February 24, 2007

THE fuel oil to be retrieved from the MT Solar 1 that sank off the coast of Guimaras will be offloaded by the Allied Shield vessel at the Bacolod Real Estate Development Corp. (BREDCO) port in Bacolod City before its transport to its final destination, Presidential Adviser for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela said yesterday.

The Allied Shield, a vessel to be brought in by Sonsub, an Italian firm specializing in deepwater operations, will dock at the BREDCO port that is nearer the Guimaras retrieval site than the Iloilo Port that does not have a dedicated berth for it, Coscolluela said.

The retrieved oil that will be offloaded in five tanks or at 100 tons at a time at the BREDCO port will then be loaded on an oil barge for transport to Holcin Cement in Misamis Occidental, Carlos Tan, Petron Health, Safety and Environment manager, said.

Coscolluela assured that the offloading of the tanks of retrieved oil at the BREDCO port will be a safe operation. When the Allied Shield begins its retrieval operations from Solar 1 on March 14 no ships and other vessels will be allowed within a one kilometer radius from it, Coscolluela also said, as a safety precaution.

Retrieval operations estimated to cost $6 million is expected to last 20 days, Mark Phibbs, of Sonsub ROV special projects, said at a press conference in Bacolod City yesterday.

All the risks are being anticipated, Sonsub has put in a contingency plan to address them to ensure a fail-safe operation, he said.

Contingency plans include oil spill response tugboats that will be deployed for the duration of the retrieval operations. The boats will be equipped with oil dispersants, oil skimmers, for the mechanical recovery of oil and spill booms for containment, he said.

One aircraft which has airborne dispersant capability will continuously be monitoring the area, he added.

Sonsub was contracted by the Protection and Indemnity Club, insurer of Solar 1, to retrieve any remaining oil on board the vessel that sank 9 kilometers south of Guimaras to a depth of about 2,100 meters carrying about 2,000 tons of oil owned by Petron in August last year, Phibbs said.

“We do not know how much oil remains on board the Solar 1, it could be 1,000 to only 10 tons or nothing,” Joe Nichols, deputy director of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, said.

“This is only the second time in the history that such a deep sea oil retrieval operation will be undertaken,” Phibbs said.

Sonsub retrieved 13,500 tons of crude oil without spillage from the tanker Prestige which sank in 10,000 feet of water 240 kilometers from the coast of Spain, he said.

Sonsub will be using the latest technologies, including the 80-meter long dynamic positioning vessel Allied Shield and two Remotely Operated Vehicles that will be deployed to work on the sunken vessel, he added.

The ROVs will drill two holes in each of the 10 sunken tanks containing oil on board the MT Solar 1. Water will be allowed to flow into one hole to displace any remaining oil which would flow from the second hole and a shuttle container will be used to capture the oil to be transferred on to the Allied Shield, he said.

The Allied Shield crew will be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to hasten the recovery of any trapped oil in Solar 1.

Phibbs said only the oil will be retrieved because the cost of salvaging Solar 1 would be prohibitive.

Coscolluela said that after the oil is retrieved from Solar 1 it will not be a threat to the marine environment.

Meanwhile, Nichols said they have compensated 12,000 fisherfolk affected by the MT Solar 1 oil spill in August last year P120 million. They have also spent $3.5 million for the clean up cost.

Tan said the threat from some sectors in Guimaras of a boycott on Petron products because of the oil spill has had no significant effect on the firm.

Coscolluela said the accusation that Petron has not adequately addressed the cleanup operations is unfair because Petron has started the work at its own expense as a moral obligation. Petron says it has so far spent P200 million for clean up operations. (CPG, Visayan Daily Star, Feb. 23, 2007)

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