Grounded Asphalt Carrier Pollutes Tourist Destination off Sumatra

Courtesy Ministry of Environment and Forestry

Published Feb 28, 2023 7:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

Pollution from the wreck of an asphalt carrier is spreading along the west coast of Nias, an island off Sumatra in the Indian Ocean, according to Indonesia's Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP). 

The Gabon-flagged asphalt carrier Aashi went aground on a remote stretch of beach on Nias' west coast on February 11, and it partially sank in the shallow water. It has begun spilling its cargo of 1,900 tonnes of asphalt, and sticky masses of the substance have been spotted as far as 15 nautical miles to the south of the wreck site. Tarballs are washing up on the pristine beaches of North Nias, including the Sawo-Lahewa protected area. This region is a popular destination for surfers and tourists. 

"Based on the results of the inspection, the MT Aashi ran aground due to bad weather and then a leak occurred in the ship's hull. Currently, the condition of the ship is 70 percent submerged in water," agency head Rear Adm. Adin Nurawaluddin told Metro Daily. 

The Indonesian government plans to conduct a cleanup operation, and Nusuntara Salvage Indonesia has been selected as the pollution-response contractor. Once officials have calculated the value of the environmental impact of the spill, they plan to pursue compensation from the shipowner. 

According to Antara News, Indonesian authorities assess that the Aashi was not seaworthy because of the condition of her hull. Her last port state control inspection, conducted in Mombasa in 2021, found deficiencies with her freeboard marks, the marking of her IMO number, and a variety of hazardous working conditions and dangerous areas on board. The previous inspection, at Chittagong in 2020, found corrosion of her decks. 

Aashi is a 5,000 dwt asphalt tanker built in 2008. She was sold in June 2022, and she is currently owned in Liberia, managed in the UAE and flagged in Gabon.