Two Sunken Vessels, Worlds Apart, to have Remaining Oil on Board Pumped Out

Separated by thousands of miles, two different vessels, each sunk in coastal waters and presenting the threat of pollution to coastal nations, will have the remaining oil pumped from their hulls by commercial salvors. Both efforts will be costly, with the cost of the Estonian salvage effort put at 2.32 million EUROS. The pumping-out of the SOLAR I will likely be far most costly, with estimates of the final price tag put at anywhere from $8 to $12 million USD.

The cargo ship “Runner 4” went down off of the Gulf of Finland island Vaindloo in Estonian waters in March after a collision with a Russian icebreaker. The vessel is said to have on board at much as one hundred tons of fuel and lube oils. Meanwhile, halfway around the globe, the motor tanker “SOLAR I” rests on the bottom off the coast of the Philippine island of Guimaras with a cargo of fuel oil on board. The doomed vessel went down in bad weather off the small Philippine island of Guimaras on August 11, spilling an estimated 50,000 gallons of fuel oil that has soiled reefs, beaches and marine reserve areas. About 450,000 gallons of fuel oil is thought to be still on board the vessel, which rests some 900 meters below the surface. The Philippine Coast Guard maintains that bunker fuel continues to leak out from the sunken tanker, although at very slow rates.

In the Philippines, a panel which supervises compensation for victims of oil pollution has agreed to provide funds to pump out the remaining fuel from the SOLAR I. The International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPC) will reportedly participate in these costs, as well. The remaining oil is scheduled to be siphoned out starting in January of 2007, according to government sources in the Philippines. That operation, according to spill-control experts, could take as many as 45 days to complete.

The Estonian government has announced that they have approved the proposal by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to unload the fuel from the Runner 4 wreck in November of this year. The press release said that the Norwegian company Frank Mohn Flatoy A/S had agreed to perform the work, which is expected to take about seven days, once begun. An earlier offer by another salvor had been rejected because it specified that the start of the pump-out operation would not begin until spring of 2007. The press release went on to say that because the wreck of the boat contains oil products, which are a potential source of extensive marine pollution, the Government had decided to eliminate the danger as soon as possible.