Only 9,000 liters recovered from Solar I

April 2, 2007

• Confirms ‘worst oil spill in RP’ tag

(Photo from The Daily Guardian)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo
2007-04-02, The Daily Guardian

THE August 11, 2006 Solar oil spill in Guimaras may very well be the worst of its kind in the Philippines given the volume of bunker oil leaked into the sea.

This was the assessment of Secretary Rafael Coscolluela, presidential adviser for Western Visayas, after the Italian firm Sonsub concluded its oil retrieval operations on the sunken tanker Sunday.

Mark A.J. Phibbs, Sonsub’s ROV special projects chief, said they only recovered 9 cubic meters (roughly 9,000 liters) of bunker fuel from all 10 tanks of Solar 1.

Solar 1 was carrying 2.1 million liters of oil owned by Petron Corp. when it sank some 20 kilometers from the southern end of Guimaras.

The spill contaminated mangroves, fishing grounds and seaweed farms aside from displacing residents along the coastal barangays.

“The amount of recovered oil will confirm that this is the worst oil spill in the country in terms of volume. The figure shows that a lot was spilled into the sea. As to the damages, assessments are still ongoing,” Coscolluela said.

It took 21 days for the Sonsub crew on board AME Allied Shield to retrieve the remaining oil inside Solar 1.

Sonsub was hired by Protection and Indemnity Club and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund after local government officials in Region 6 demanded for the recovery of the remaining oil.

Phibbs said they used gravity to retrieve the oil by introducing water into the Solar 1 tanks, forcing the bunker fuel out of the vents.

The Sonsub team used two ROVs (Remote Operated Vehicle) to inspect the ship and guide the drills and shuttle tubes used in the operation.

“We finished the retrieval operation Saturday evening after we drained all the oil in the remaining tanks. We were right on schedule. The recovered oil did not reach half of the 20,000-liter ISO tanks we used,” Phibbs said

The whole Sonsub crew, except for Phibbs, is on their way to back Singapore.

Phibbs said the whole operation cost some $6 million, “depending on the stipulations of the contract.”


But things may not be over yet for the Solar oil spill saga as no one has been held liable for the incident.

The Philippine Coast Guard’s Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) recently blamed Solar 1 owner Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. (SMDC) and tanker captain Norberto Aguro for the incident.

Based on the SBMI findings, Aguro and SMDC are administratively liable for the vessel’s sinking.

SMDC disregarded regulations, policies and requirements for the seaworthiness of its vessel, while Petron overloaded the vessel causing instability and rendering it unseaworthy, the SBMI said.

Petron, who contracted the tanker, is liable for overloading the vessel and rendering it unseaworthy, the SBMI said.

The board said the ship suffered from a “loss of reserve buoyancy” because it was overloaded by approximately 150 tons, as determined from the ship’s load line, or the free space a vessel must maintain for safety.

The board said the Solar 1’s load line was 700 millimeters (mm), down from 1,220mm.

The petroleum company debunked the SBMI findings saying the tanker’s load was well within its capacity.

Aguro’s lack of adequate training, a disabling error of judgment and a disabling lack of knowledge were cited to justify the charge that he was incompetent, the board said.

Even the Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority were also blamed for the disaster.

Coscolluela said they still have to find out if charges will be filed against certain entities using the SBMI report.

“The SBMI has filed its report but we don’t know who will file the necessary actions. Maybe the DoJ can do it, but we don’t know as of now,” Coscolluela said.

Coscolluela said a multi-agency approach is needed to determine who should sue liable parties.

“The Departments of Justice, Environment and other concerned entities can get together and identify the necessary actions. The only problem is if there are other agencies that are also possible violators or committed lapses which led to the incident,” he added.

“Our main concern right now is the rehabilitation of the affected area. Of course we don’t want to forget everything. I will take this up in the next meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council.”


One comment

  1. […] Angelo, Francis Allan L.. “Only 9,000 liters recovered from Solar I“. https://sludge.wordpress.com/. 2 April […]

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