From News Dispatches

MANAMA, BAHRAIN: Saudi Arabian officials blamed the captain of an Indian supertanker for an oil spill on April 28 as a martime source said the slick had reached beaches at Jeddah on the Saudi Arabian Red Sea coast.

“The oil has hit the beaches in at least one place, and by morning we should have a clearer picture of the damage.” a Jeddah based martime source said.

Jeddah port authorities hoped high winds and choppy seas would break up the slick, but the winds instead pushed it north from the tanker toward the cosmopolitan port city.

The port authorities have tried to place floating rubber barriers between the oil and coast, “but while that’s keeping most of the oil away for the moment, some of it is getting through here and there,” the source said.

Jeddah Port Authority Director General Mustafa Hariri said the oil spill from the 276,744 ton Bombay bound supertanker Kanchenjunga was estimated at up to 15,000 tons, or 3.9 million gallons.

But Hariri said he was optimistic the spill could be contained before causing major damage to the environment.

“The situation has been dealt with swiftly and effectively and it is anticipated that the crude oil will be chemically cleared from these a within two weeks,” he told the Jeddah daily Arab News.

Arab News said the captain of the tanker, owned by the state owned Shipping Corporation of India had waited for eight hours after running around before calling for help and blamed poor visibility for the accident.

However, port authorities who said visibility was clear Wednesday when the tanker ran aground on a reef about 6 nautical miles from the Yanbu terminal near Jeddah.

The port authority blamed the Indian skipper for the accident, saying he appeared to have lost his way and was using an outdated map while taking an unauthorized route.

Saudi Arabia’s official Meteorological and Environmental Protection Organization said it will sue the Indian owners of the tanker for damages to recoup the cost of the salvage and marine protection operation.

The Indian captain’s ship was loaded with 1 million barrels, or 42 millions gallons of Saudi crude at the time of the accident.

The captain said he was waiting for an assessment of damage to his ship and would then be in a position to sail as soon as his water tanks were emptied and permission granted.

Shipping insurers Lloyd’s of London said the tanker has sustained damage to its starboard and port storage tanks containing 27,000 tons or over 7 million gallons of oil.

Lloyd’s said salvage crews have managed to plug the two holes and stop the oil leaks after the vessel was refloated and towed some 20 nautical miles to a safe anchorage near Jeddah for repairs.

Nearly 2 million gallons of crude were unloaded from the ship to another vessel to help refloat it, as. more than 1 million gallons of sea water were pumped into the vessel’s front tanks to maintain the ship’s balance, the shipping sources said.

Article extracted from this publication >>  May 12, 1989