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October 30, 2018

Investigators fail to fix responsibility of oil spill


October 30, 2018

Mystery of oil spill that affected coastline of Sindh and Balochistan from Hawkesbay to Gadani was partially resolved after a private company, Byco Petroleum, confirmed that oil that affected the coast was bunker oil, which is used as fuel in large ships. “It is most likely that in this case the bunker oil was dumped by a ship being taken to Gadani for ship-breaking,” the petroleum company stated.

Officials of security agencies guarding the sea also suspected that the spill was caused either by a vessel sailing near the border of Sindh and Balochistan or any of the ships being taken to the Gadani ship-breaking yard for dismantling.

The spill has become a major environmental concern as bunker oil remains on the sea surface for a longer time as being highly viscous, it does not evaporate. “The oil filled in the bunkers of a ship is called bunker oil. It is usually thick and black in colour and is not used for any purpose other than powering ship engines. It is extremely dangerous for marine life as it remains on the sea surface for months and even years due to its inability to evaporate,” said Khalil ur Rehman, captain of an oil transport vessel based in Malaysia.

Investigating agencies, however, have so far been unable to trace the ship responsible for the spill, which according to an estimate, dumped over 20 metric tonnes of bunker oil in the sea that caused environmental crisis, resulting in deaths of thousands of marine creatures, depriving thousands of fishermen of their livelihood and causing an expenditure of millions of rupees to clean up the oil from the sea and the coasts.

A spokesman for the Byco Petroleum Pakistan Limited (BPPL) on Monday said after a thorough investigation, the Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that the BPPL had absolutely no leakage or loss of containment from any of its facilities. “This has been further confirmed also by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA),” the spokesman said.

“Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency and PMSA had conducted their investigations starting October 25, including conducting aerial survey to determine the source of the leakage that washed up on the shores of Mubarak Village. Their findings showed no evidence of leakage at Byco’s facilities,” the spokesman maintained.

As part of its own investigations, Byco tested a sample of the oil and found that it was bunker oil, which is not produced at Byco’s refinery nor at any other refinery in Pakistan, the spokesman claimed, adding that it is most likely that in this case the bunker oil was dumped by a vessel being taken to Gadani for ship-breaking.

Sindh blames Centre

The provincial minister for environment and coastal development, Taimur Talpur, on Monday accused the federal government of ‘doing nothing’ to fix the responsibility of the incident.

Sharing his views on Twitter, Talpur termed the oil spill a ‘sad and regrettable’ incident. He added that Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had instructed the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency Sepa director general to find out culprits behind the incident.

The minister claimed that 90 per cent of the beach had already been cleaned while the remaining would be cleaned within a few days.

In the meantime, Sepa, which seems to be devoid of resources and expertise to identify the type of oil that was found in the sea, remained clueless about the source of the spill. The agency’s inaction so far imparts the impression that the incident did not deserve much attention.

It has also been reported by sources that security agencies, including the PMSA, were aware of the fact that some large vessel dumped oil in the sea a few days ago but they have so far been unable to trace the ship. A team of investigators also approached the Gadani ship-breaking yard to investigate the oil spill; however, they did not get any clue about the ship that caused the spill.

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