Cleanup operation underway after fuel oil spills in Rotterdam harbour

EPA/JERRY LAMPEN/FILE PICTURE

View of the port of Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Odfjell, the owner of the freighter Bow Jubail, said the rupture caused a release of about 217 tonnes of heavy fuel oil from the fuel tank inside.


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A cleanup operation is underway after an oil freighter – the Bow Jubail – on her way to the assigned berth for loading made contact with the jetty on June 23 and accidentally ruptured the hull, releasing a considerable amount of heavy fuel oil.

The Port of Rotterdam Authority and the emergency services installed oil booms around the vessel as quickly as possible to prevent the further spread of the oil, the Port of Rotterdam said on June 25 in a press release, adding that the installation of the oil booms was successful but some of the oil had already spread beyond the incident area.

On June 24, a considerable spread of traces of oil was observed on the water from Hoek van Holland to Spijkenisse bridge and to the Benelux tunnel, the Poert of Rotterdam said, adding that the most of the oil is in the Derde Petroleumhaven.

“Experts are expecting the cleanup operation to take days if not weeks, or possibly even longer,” the Port of Rotterdam said, adding that experts carried out an inspection on the water early on June 24 afternoon. “The inspection findings will be used to produce an action plan for the oil-cleaning operation by a specialist company,” the port said, adding that this action plan is a joint Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) and Port Authority plan, as they are responsible respectively for the waterways and port basins. Economic ports will remain open as far as possible.

In the meantime the Safety Region Rotterdam Rijnmond (VRR) has determined two priorities: the oil-cleaning operation and a focus on the care of oil-soaked birds. The Harbour Master’s division of the Port Authority is primarily responsible for the coordination of the pollution cleanup operation in the ports and the consequences for shipping. RWS is primarily responsible for the coordination of the clean-up operations on the waterways. RWS also coordinates collaboration between Dierenambulance (animal rescue) and Vogelbescherming (bird protection) for receiving and cleaning oil-soaked birds, for which a national unit has been deployed, the Port of Rotterdam said.

The competent authorities have advised people to avoid direct contact with the oil, the Port of Rotterdam said, adding that the fire service will assist Dierenbescherming employees with boats and additional protective equipment.

“The priority of the clean up operation is now to clean the surface water in the Derde Petroleumhaven. Only then can vessels be cleaned in a special washing facility so that they are clean and safe to re-join shipping traffic,” the Port of Rotterdam said.

The Derde Petroleumhaven, Wiltonhaven and the marinas of Vlaardingen and Schiedam will remain closed until further notice. The closed marinas are likely to remain closed for the entire Sunday. All agents and involved companies in the affected ports were informed of the incident and the possible consequences of this on Saturday.

“The Port of Rotterdam Authority is holding the owner of the tanker liable,” the port said.

Odfjell, the owner of the freighter Bow Jubail, said in a statement posted on the company’s website the rupture caused a release of about 217 tonnes of heavy fuel oil (HFO) from the fuel tank inside. “Mitigating actions were immediately taken to limit the spill, both by the vessel’s crew and by resources from shore. The leakage was stopped, and there is no risk of further spills,” the company said.

According to Odfjell, the incident happened on June 23 and by June 26, around 150 tonnes of the spilled oil had been cleared. The cleanup is expected to last for several days, the company said.

“When the incident was reported, Odfjell immediately mobilised its Emergency Response Team at the headquarters in Bergen to support internal and external resources in bringing the situation under control,” Odfjell said, adding that the vessel is insured by the P&I club GARD who has also mobilised resources.

“Odfjell regrets the unfortunate incident and takes this matter very seriously. Together with GARD, Odfjell cooperates closely with Dutch Authorities to ensure that necessary resources are available in taking the required actions and mitigate consequences of the oil spill,” Odfjell said. “We have established an Incident Investigation Team to identify the root causes. The team will also cooperate with the Authorities to establish relevant facts,” the company said, adding that there are no personnel injuries. “The vessel did not carry any cargo, and is safely moored at the Botlek terminal.” Odfjell said.

The vessel is a 37,499 dwt chemical tanker, managed by Odfjell Management AS and registered in Norway.

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