NANFA-- News - Crude Oil Spill off Pakistan

Sajjad Lateef (
Fri, 29 Aug 2003 10:50:53 -0700 (PDT)

I haven't seen this on TV or on the newspaper. But, a gigantic
oil spill next to one of the largest cities in the World
deserves some attention. (Karachi is home to 15 million people
i.e. three times the number of people in Chicago).

The coastline is also the breeding site for some rare sea turtles.


Oil spill off Pakistan reaches 24,000 tonnes: port official

KARACHI (AFP) - A devastating oil spill off Pakistan's southern coast
is much worse than originally thought, port authorities said, amid
fears the broken tanker responsible could crack and leak further.

"Rough estimates now put the total oil spillage from the ship at 24,000
tonnes," compared to earlier estimates that figured the spill at around
15,000 tonnes, a senior official of the state-run Karachi Port Trust,
Brigadier Iftikhar Arshad, told AFP.

"The ship is tilting, making its position vulnerable and there are
fears that the tilting may cause further cracks and thus more

The oil spill by the Greek-controlled MV Tasman Spirit has been dubbed
the worst spill to blight Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast,
environmentalists say.

The tanker started leaking after drifting into a shallow channel and
grounding off the port of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, on July 27.
On August 14 the 24-year-old vessel gave in to heaving monsoonal tides
and split in two.

It had been carrying 67,500 tonnes of crude to the state-run Pakistan
Refinery. Salvage operations have managed to siphon some 34,000 tonnes
off the ship.

Some 10,000 tonnes remain in the ship's hold, KPT spokesman Shafiq
Ahmed Faridi said.

The fore is on the verge of cracking further, triggering emergency
efforts to empty its 1,000 tonne cargo, KPT officials said.

"Experts have told us the front side is likely to crack up further soon
and whatever oil is there should be removed," Afridi told AFP.

"We are shifting the oil from the front to another ship through pipes,
but since this ship has low capacity some of the oil is being
transferred to the rear."

The most environmentally destructive spill in shipping history, the
1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, involved the leakage of 38,800

The Tasman Spirit's spill has already destroyed young mangroves,
turtles and fish along Karachi's 16-kilometre (10-mile) coastline,
covered its beaches in sludge and littered them with dead marine life
and sent residents fleeing their seaside homes.

The city's famous Clifton Beach is closed until at least mid-September
while hundreds of labourers continue to scrape up oil-soaked sand.

Federal Environment Minister Tahir Iqbal called the destruction to
marine life "colossal."

Full assessment of the damage would take one to two months, he added,
to include an analysis of samples of sea water, sand, mangroves and

Pakistan has asked the United Nations (news - web sites) and other
donor agencies to help clean up the spill.

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) is dispatching two international
experts, including one who assisted in the Exxon Valdez clean-up, to
help control the spill and assess damage, the minister said.

While fishermen relying on small fish have had their livelihoods
interrupted, deep sea fishing was so far unaffected as the oil,
according to Iqbal, had not travelled to deep sea areas, nor to
Karachi's harbour.

Pakistan is conducting an inquiry into the ship's grounding and have
questioned its Greek and Filipino crew.


Sajjad Lateef
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