A major crude oil spill of 400,000 litres off the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong on Tuesday (January 25) night has raised fears about potential marine environmental effects, especially on beach destinations like Koh Samet, with some speculating that it might be even worse than the 2013 incident.
The crude oil spill happened at 9.06 p.m. at Star Petroleum Refining Plc’s single point mooring, which is a floating jetty offshore that allows petroleum tankers to transport crude oil for its refinery in the industrial estate, according to the company’s statement.
Crude oil spill poses a greater danger to Koh Samat tourism than the pandemic
The frail tourism sector on Koh Samet, already harmed by the Covid-19 pandemic‘s limitations, now confronts a new threat in the form of a crude oil spill threatening the island’s and adjacent beaches. Sarinthip Tupmongkholsup of the Koh Samet Tourism Association is reminded of an oil leak on the island’s Ao Phrao in 2013 and is hoping to avoid a repetition.
“We do not want a repeat of the terrible spill at Ao Phrao Bay, as locals worked for years to clean it up.”
She goes on to claim that the beach’s natural resources have yet to recover from the 2013 crude oil spill, and that despite the disaster occurring in a single location, the massive volume of crude oil released caused poor air quality around the island, affecting tourism demand.
According to a report, the Pollution Control Department estimates that 180,000–200,000 litres of the 400,000 litre leak will end up at Mae Ramphueng Beach and adjacent beaches in the Khao Laem Ya–Mu Koh Samet Marine National Park. The oil is expected to touch the coast tomorrow afternoon unless something is done, according to the agency.
Although tourism has already suffered in Rayong’s eastern region, where Koh Samet is located, Sarinthip believes the oil leak poses a greater danger to tourism than the pandemic. Tourists will be unable to swim in the sea, and seafood may get polluted. She is pleading with the authorities to do everything possible to lessen the harm.
Efforts to reduce the effects of a crude oil pipeline spill in the sea south of Pattaya, off the coast of Rayong, are ongoing this morning. The crude oil spill happened off the shore at a mooring location where oil tankers load and unload.
The catastrophe, which occurred 20 kilometers southeast of Map Ta Phut, harmed tourism on Koh Samet and had a long-term impact on the marine ecology.
To clean up the possible environmental disaster, the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, the navy, and other environmental agencies have been called in.
The requirement to submit a negative antigen test done no more than 72 hours previous to arrival is another tourist deterrent for Koh Samet. According to recent reports, the regulation is driving many visitors to cancel their vacation plans and travel somewhere else. Quarantine-free Test & Go entry scheme for tourists is set to restart on February 1 to supposedly attract more tourist influx.
During the week, Koh Samet attracts between 300 and 500 tourists, compared to 2,000 to 3,000 people per day prior to the Omicron wave. Hotel occupancy on weeknights, according to Sarinthip, is in the single digits. On weekends, the island sees between 1,000 and 2,000 people per day, down from 3,000 to 4,000 visitors per day last month. The island had an average of 10,000 tourists each day in 2019.
Star Petroleum Refining expressed regrets for the crude oil spill tragedy
According to a press release, the corporation has despatched emergency personnel to take all required precautions in the event of a crude oil spill.
The firm has also notified all relevant government authorities, as well as nearby towns, the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate’s Environmental Monitoring and Control Centre, and the Emergency Incident Command Centre. The oil leak was also reported to other firms in the region, according to the statement.
Star Petroleum Refining expressed regret for the tragedy and promised to look into it.
In a subsequent statement, the business stated that the leakage from its underwater line had been stopped at 12:18 a.m. on Wednesday and that the issue had been brought under control.
It said it had sent out boats to spray chemicals to clean up the spilt oil, and that it would conduct a morning assessment to assess the situation.
It is expected that at 5 p.m. on Friday, according to the Pollution Control Department’s Oil Map simulation, the spilt crude oil might reach Mae Rampueng Beach and Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park in Rayong. According to the department, the leaked crude oil might reach 180,000 litres in the affected districts.
The undersea pipe had a minor leak, according to Puchong Saritchaikul, head of the First Marine and Coastal Resources Office, and the 0.9-centimetre hole was caused by biological deterioration, primarily caused by barnacles.
On Wednesday afternoon, Atthapol Charonechansa, director-general of the Pollution Control Department, and Sophon Thongdee, chief of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, will visit the region to assess the situation.
Tuesday’s accident can be worse than a similar crude oil spill tragedy in 2013
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine life expert, warned that the situation in Rayong could be worse than it was in 2013.
Thon, a marine life specialist, said on Facebook that the latest leak was bigger than the one in 2013 and that the northward wind might lead part of the oil to reach the Rayong shore.
The north wind, he added, could assist Koh Samet to avoid a catastrophe, but inhabitants of the tourist attraction island should remain vigilant because it is close to the coast.
PTT Global Chemical’s oil line burst while collecting crude oil from a Greek oil ship in July 2013, spilling 50,000 gallons of crude oil.
Navy races against time to stop crude oil spill from reaching Thai beaches
Thailand’s Royal Navy was assisting in the cleanup of a 128-ton (160,000-liter) crude oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Thailand on Wednesday.
Although the leak is in an industrial area, some of the oil might reach nearby beaches by Friday if it is not removed before then, according to Attapol Charoenchansa, director-general of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Pollution Control Department.
In a text message, Thai Military spokesman Vice Adm. Pokkrong Monthatphalin said the navy dispatched a surveillance plane, two ships, and a helicopter to assist with the clean-up. He stated that the aircraft will conduct a scan of the region and spray a chemical to aid in the dispersal of the oil slick.
A total of 20 tons (about 20,000 litres) of oil was believed to be floating on the surface by Star Petroleum. It began removing the oil overnight and anticipated to complete the task. It claimed it was unknown how much oil had been discharged in total.
According to a corporate statement, “We received good support from relevant government agencies and the private sector, including manpower, working boats and dispersant supplies to support the operation to completely clean the oil from the sea’s surface.”
Fuel tank sinks in the Gulf of Thailand prior to crude oil spill incident
A gasoline tanker carrying 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel capsized in the Gulf of Thailand just days before the crude oil leak in Rayong.
Vice Adm Pokkrong Monthatphalin, a Navy spokesman, said four warships will assist with the crude oil spill cleaning and recovery of the sinking tanker on Monday.
Por Andaman 2, carrying 500,000 liters of diesel oil, began sinking around 24 nautical miles from the Chumphon estuary while moored in the Gulf to give fuel to trawlers.
After the tanker fell in 50 meters of water at approximately 7.15 p.m. on Saturday, a neighboring vessel rescued the skipper and five crew members. Vessels around the crash site and the Royal Thai Navy’s clean-up operation have been ordered to stay away.
The ship’s owner, Thai Laemthong Fishery Oil Trade Co Ltd, has been instructed to halt all activities as a result of the catastrophe. The cleanup will take seven days, according to the Navy, while the recovery operation might take up to 15 days.