Oil spill off Penang threatens Perak coast

The 43.6m vessel from Hong Kong hit the remains of a shipwreck 4km from Penang island's southern coast on Thursday, and began leaking fuel and engine oil about seven hours later.
The 43.6m vessel from Hong Kong hit the remains of a shipwreck 4km from Penang island's southern coast on Thursday, and began leaking fuel and engine oil about seven hours later.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Shrimp and fish farms near shore may be at risk after vessel hits shipwreck and sinks

GEORGE TOWN • Up to six tonnes of diesel and hundreds of litres of engine oil have floated from the Penang seas towards Perak after a ship sank on Thursday, threatening fish and shrimp farms and the coastal environment along several kilometres of northern Perak's coast.

The vessel's fuel and engine oil began leaking about seven hours after it hit the remains of a shipwreck nicknamed Kapal Simen, 4km from Penang island's southern coast at about 5.30am on Thursday.

The 43.6m vessel from Hong Kong, Xin Yi Yi, hit the Kapal Simen. The captain of the vessel, Mr Shing Wei, 61, in his police report, said he had just arrived from Hong Kong to collect live farmed fish from the Batu Maung fisheries jetty.

Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu said yesterday that there is no risk of diesel and engine oil reaching Perak shores for the time being.

He said that the state Marine Department has been monitoring the situation, and would inform the state government on the risk, if the spill reaches Tanjung Piandang, which is about 20km away, and where dozens of shrimp and fish farms in dugout ponds are near the shore.

With the spill floating freely, Datuk Aileen Tan, a marine biologist, bemoaned the damage to the coastal environment when it eventually reaches land.

"The tide was strong and we can only hope that the current and wind will spread the diesel thinly so that when it lands, it is not concentrated enough to do immediate short-term damage in any one area," she said.

Dr Tan said the farms must be told not to pump in seawater to avoid sucking the diesel into their ponds, especially if their intake pipes are close to the water surface.

"Coastal fishermen must not put out their floating nets or the diesel will contaminate their catch," she said, adding that the diesel and oil spill could be at sea for a few days before it hits land.

The Penang shipping agent of the vessel, S. Elumalai, said it was a routine trip for the ship, which could take about 30 tonnes of live fish back to Hong Kong.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2018, with the headline 'Oil spill off Penang threatens Perak coast'. Print Edition | Subscribe