Cleanup Off China After Tanker Spills 500 Tons of Oil

oil clean up off Qingdao China
(file photo)

Published Apr 28, 2021 4:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Clean-up efforts are getting underway to contain and recover the oil leaking from a Suezmax tanker that was struck by a cargo ship off the port of Qingdao, China. Chinese officials and the tanker’s management company confirmed that pollution response teams are on-site while both vessels remain seaworthy approximately 11 nautical miles off the coast of China.

Reuters is reporting that Chinese officials told them that approximately 500 tons, which equates to 3,420 barrels out of the total one million barrels of oil on board the tanker, have leaked into the ocean. Initial reports from the Singapore-based Goodwood Ship Management that handles the Liberian-flagged tanker A Symphony said that the captain of the vessel had activated the oil spill response and was attempting to shift oil from the damaged tanks. Unconfirmed reports suggest that they are now considering a ship-to-ship transfer to remove oil from the damaged tanks.

Shandong Maritime Safety Administration officials said that a dozen vessels had been dispatched to the scene of the accident to begin the efforts to address the oil spill. The challenge, however, is that the tanker was reportedly transporting an oil mixture known as bitumen that is used in applications such as road paving and roofing. Experts warned that the mixture is heavier than crude oil and as such the danger is that the oil will sink causing a larger environmental disaster.

The Shandong official told Reuters that tests are being performed on samples of the oil to determine what oil product they are dealing with from the spill.

The accident happened on the morning of April 27. The 149,995 dwt tanker was at anchor reported to be fully loaded after a trip from Malaysia. The 35,000 dwt cargo ship Sea Justice was inbound after a voyage from Sudan when it struck the tanker damaging one of its cargo tanks and a ballast tank. TankerTrackers, which Tweeted a photo showing the extent of the damage to the vessel, cautioned readers that not all the tanks were breached meaning only a portion of the oil was leaking. 



At the time of the accident, the Chinese officials said visibility was under a tenth of a mile (600 feet) with heavy fog conditions in the region.  

The recovery efforts are being aided by improving weather conditions in the region. Visibility is up to as much as half a mile or more while sea conditions remain calm. Because the accident happened more than 10 nautical miles offshore, operations at Qingdao, one of China’s busiest seaports, are continuing uninterrupted, but vessels are being warned to steer away from the area of the accident.