Whew, it seems like our beautiful beaches will remain that way :)
An oil spill in Penang that polluted 5km of coastline on the island, stretching from Swettenham Pier to Gurney Drive, has been cleaned up.
The accident happened on Friday (27th May) night, but the Federal Government allegedly kept it in the dark from Penang authorities until late Saturday. Fortunately, the clean-up operation for the oil spill was completed at 2:55pm yesterday (Sunday, 29th May) after Penang Port Sdn. Bhd. (PPSB), the Marine Department, the Department of Environment (DOE), and several other private oil companies worked together to eradicate the threat.
The oil spill, estimated to be a few thousand litres, created a slimy strip of up to 2m in some areas. As of Sunday, around 70 square kilometres were affected by the spill.
DOE state director Nor Juliana Jaafar said that the oil spill was not a continuous line but patches of oil can be seen all along the affected coastline. Some oil was taken for analysis and initial tests showed that it was a mix of fuel and engine oil.
An Indian vessel was blamed for the oil spill initially, but on Sunday, The Star identified the culprit as a Malaysian oil tanker. The spill was believed to originate from the Prai Bulk Terminal. Clean-up operations began immediately, but not before sea currents spread the oil to waters off The Esplanade and Gurney Drive.
Private oil companies deployed tugboats and manpower to manually scoop the scum up. About 15 boats and more than 100 personnel were utilised to halt the spill from spreading further.
A 150m oil boom near Gurney Drive proved to be a game changer as it prevented the oil slick from reaching the beach. PPSB chief operating officer Sasidharan Vasudevan expressed his thanks to private oil companies who lent their booms, tugboats, and manpower to the effort.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng expressed his disappointment, stating that the oil spill is a major “environmental crisis” that could potentially affect the lives of aquatic animals and the livelihood of fishermen.
He also said that it was “totally unacceptable” for the Federal Government to keep the matter a secret.
Several fishermen have since stepped up to reveal that oil spills happen more often than reported. Fisherman M. Ravi, 47, stated that the ocean was tainted by oil spills just 2 weeks ago. Another fisherman, Syukor Ali, 58, did not even bother to go out to sea as he feared that he would come back empty handed while M. Murugan had to use petrol and kerosene to remove oil stains from his boat.
Environmentalists have also urged authorities to tighten laws and regulations in a bid to deter future oil spills from destroying the ocean.
UPDATE (31st May, 11am):
The Malaysian oil vessel said to be responsible for the Penang oil spill has been impounded to assist in investigations.
The vessel, an oil tanker, was built in 2011 and registered in Port Klang. Although the oil tanker has been determined as the culprit, authorities still do not know how the leak occurred as no leakage was found.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng explained that the Marine Department was leading the investigations with the Department of Environment (DOE) taking samples for tests. An estimated 15 tonnes of fuel was suspected to have spilled into the sea.
However, a shoreline scan by the DOE revealed that the oil spill was successfully contained, as there were no traces of fuel in the waters of Gurney Drive, Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah, The Esplanade, Batu Ferringhi, and Teluk Bahang.
The last high profile oil spill case happened in May 2012, where strips of sand polluted with black oil were found on the beach by hotel guests in Batu Ferringhi.