Grounded Container Ship off Taiwan Begins to Break Up
The grounded container ship TS Taipei, which lost power and came to rest off New Taipei City, Taiwan on March 10, has begun to break up and is in danger of capsizing.
“The ship has fractured down the middle and could capsize anytime . . . if [she] capsizes, the remaining fuel could leak out and the cargo containers will fall into the sea, affecting the local coastline and ocean habitat,” sad Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).
She began to show cracks on March 24, and has nearly parted in two. Oil has been leaking from the stricken vessel since the grounding.
The Taipei reportedly carries about 70,000 gallons of fuel, plus lube oil and oily wastewater; a combined task force has been working to lighter the pollutants, but weather has been poor, leaving only six days since the grounding with conditions calm enough to work. Authorities do not expect to have a good weather window until Monday.
In addition to the contents of her tanks, she carries nine cargo containers with hazardous goods, including potassium perchlorate and toluene.
EPA director Ye Jun-hong said that his staff are preparing for the worst. Over 100 workers have already been dispatched to the rocky beaches at Shimen District, New Taipei, to clean the oiled shorelines.
Taiwain's Premier Chang San-cheng has defended the government against attacks over a percieved slow response to the wreck. Helicopter crews with the National Airborne Service Corps rescued all 21 crewmembers on board the day of the grounding; shortly thereafter, during spill mitigation work, a Service Corps helicopter went down, killing two and seriously injuring one. Premier Chang said Friday that while it is important to address environmental concerns, the government needs to keep the safety of response crews a top priority.
The TS Taipei is owned by regional carrier TS Lines, a Hong Kong-based private company with 72,000 TEU of smaller container vessels, mostly chartered. She is one of the company's two owned ships. A full salvage plan has not yet been publicly mentioned, nor any contracted salvors identified. TS Lines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.