Japanese tanker and Singapore container ship identified as vessels which collided, leading to Hong Kong palm oil spill

Crystallised palm oil is seen along Cheung Sha beach at Lantau Island in Hong Kong on Aug 9, 2017.
Crystallised palm oil is seen along Cheung Sha beach at Lantau Island in Hong Kong on Aug 9, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - A Japanese-owned chemical tanker and a Singaporean container ship have been identified by the trade press as the two vessels involved in a collision in Chinese waters that led to Hong Kong's beaches being awash with jelly-like palm oil, South China Morning Post reported on Monday (Aug 14).

The spill earlier this month forced the Hong Kong authorities to close 13 popular beaches around the city as hundreds of volunteers and staff raced to scoop up the acrid-smelling clumps in one of the Chinese territory's worst environmental disasters.

Japan-based Global Marine Service's (GMS) Global Apollon and Singapore's Pacific International Lines' (PIL) Kota Ganteng collided off Guishan Islands, just a few kilometres south-west of Hong Kong's Sokos Islands, according to a report by Tradewinds News, a shipping industry news service.

The report said Global Apollon was carrying 9,000 tonnes of raw palm oil and that the authorities in the southern mainland city of Guangzhou had dispatched nine ships to "assist and contain" the spill, the actual size of which is still unconfirmed.

Hong Kong officials have reported the amount spilled to be about 1,000 tonnes, reported SCMP.

Citing the ships' automatic identification systems, the daily said the Kota Ganteng is believed to have sailed back to Singapore, while the Global Apollon is currently anchored off Guishan.

The Apollon's registered owner is Alavanca Inc, a Panamanian affiliate of Japan's Global Marine Service Company, SCMP said. Built in 2015, the 141-metre oil-chemical tanker has a gross tonnage of 10,754 and a cargo capacity of 18,754 litres.

The 226-metre Kota Goteng is owned by Singapore's PIL and has a gross tonnage of 28,676.

A spokesman for the Tokyo-based GMS told Tradewinds News that the Apollon was "under inspection" and declined to comment further.

Hong Kong's Marine Department declined to confirm the information to SCMP, which also sought comment from PIL.

As of noon on Friday, the Hong Kong government has collected 178 tonnes of palm oil stearin from sea surfaces and beaches, and had reopened five beaches to the public.