Sanchi Sinking: Bunker Spill Fears Compound Worst Oil Ships Disaster in Decades

Sue Libenson
Date: January 17, 2018

In a note to Ship & Bunker, Sue Libenson, Senior Arctic Program officer, Pacific Environment, said the tragedy has once again highlighted the danger of HFO spills, particularly in sensitive regions such as the Arctic.

“The stricken tanker now sunk offshore of Shanghai should give pause to all with concern for the ocean, especially those who depend on sensitive, remote waters such as the Arctic. The tanker’s cargo of light fuel burned dramatically for a week, but response crews have voiced concerns about the looming fate of the heavy oil fuel or bunker fuel that powered the tanker. Heavy fuel is the dirtiest kind of oil and highly persistent if spilled. A large heavy fuel spill into the waters of China’s largest fishery would compound the tragedy of the tanker’s missing crew. High seas, poisonous fumes, explosions, and winds have hampered resource and response efforts this week,” she said.

“China’s calamity highlights efforts underway to prevent heavy fuel oil spills in other sensitive, but far more challenging waters. International consideration is currently being given to phase out the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic where communities depend on marine life and spill response is negligible. This dangerous fuel is already banned under international rules for Antarctic waters. The Arctic deserves the same international precautions”.