Written by Staff Writer by By Katarina Hoije, CNN London
The oil tanker, DAP Formosa, lies 65 miles off the Vietnamese coast.
It is 90% submerged with an oil slick stretching for miles beneath it.
According to Vietnamese authorities, oil in the Tanker poses a threat to beaches and waters off Vietnam’s southern coast, home to an estimated 9 million people.
Chevron has been on a “beach restoration mission” since April 27 to clean up the oil and restore natural marine life, according to a report in Vietnam’s national newspaper, VNExpress
“The seabed of the tanker is now a polluted area. It’s been hit by oil and mud, as well as coal that’s been discharged from another oil tanker. Most of the contents spilled from the mooring cables (of the second tanker) after its engine room doors were ripped open,” Transport Minister Pham Van Khoi said in a speech at a dredging conference in Ho Chi Minh City.
“This whole area (is now) suffering from lack of fishing, destructive fishing equipment, widespread pollution. We are negotiating with the Vietnamese to stop all criminal acts,” Chevron said in a statement, referring to “illegal action by certain Vietnamese vessels” to undermine salvage efforts.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for an international investigation into who was responsible for the disaster, in a statement sent to CNN on Thursday.
Chevron spokesman John Christiansen said in an email that the company was treating the incident “very seriously.” He said “there are no reported injuries or environmental impact at this time.”
According to Christenson, the company will continue “damage assessment of the tanker, analysis of the fire and recovery operations,” adding that its “top priority is to protect the environment and workers.”
The first response teams recovered a lone lifeboat, four crew members, in this photo posted to social media by French sailor Sylvain Desabre. (Credit: Humanitaires des yachtiers d’Escoffier)
The breach happened on April 28, as the vessels were in the process of removing 500,000 gallons of fuel that leaked from the Bunker and Magatex units on the Greek-owned DAP Formosa. The tank’s tank was carrying nearly 3 million gallons, or 92,000 tons, of bunker fuel.
Police who boarded the vessel found the “bunker’s diesel core was exposed on the deck under hundreds of tons of mud, raising concerns that it might have been harmed.”
According to the Indonesian news agency Detik, it was found that tank had three lifeboats.
Following the incident, both the fishermen who had prepared to lift oil by boat were prevented from starting their work by officers from Vietnam’s Department of Maritime Affairs, and four Vietnamese sailors were arrested. The boat operated by Vietnamese freelance oil-cleanup operators was forcibly taken by Chevron to Danang port to gather samples.
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Video shot from the MH1037 cargo ship shows workers at the scene of the spill. (Credit: TGD News Agency)
In Vietnam, where palm oil farming and fishing are the largest sources of income for individuals, environmental damage can also have wider economic consequences.
According to a report on the incident in the Vietnamese newspaper Dieu Doan Huong, the Vietnamese Minister of Trade and Industry said that his country has “rejected joint venture projects” in an effort to protect the coastal environment.
Activists with Friends of the Earth Asia were outraged at the seizure, describing the action as “appalling.”
According to OpenDemocracy, at least 70,000 gallons of fuel were discharged from both vessels.