JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - It will cost about RM5 million (S$1.6 million) to clean up the oil slick in the Pasir Gudang waters and owners of the two container ships involved in the spill will have to foot the bill.
Johor Port Authority (JPA) general manager Muhammad Razif Ahmad said about 100 personnel from 10 agencies were involved in the operation.
The cleanup started on Wednesday (Jan 4), a day after the two vessels collided at Johor Port in Pasir Gudang.
"Based on our observations, the spilled oil is unlikely to spread from where it is floating now," Mr Razif told a press conference at the Johor Department of Environment (DOE) headquarters on Thursday.
In the incident, Singapore-registered vessel Wan Hai 301 crashed into Gibraltar-registered APL Denver docked at Johor Port on Tuesday night after suffering generator failure.
Some 300 tonnes of fuel oil leaked from the APL Denver and spread along the shoreline of Kampung Pasir Putih, Kampung Teluk Kabung and Kampung Perigi Aceh.
Mr Razif said the owners of the ships would have to bear the cost of cleaning the sea and shoreline areas.
Also present at the press conference were Johor Health and Environment committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat and state DOE director Datuk Dr Mohammad Ezanni Mat Salleh.
Mr Ayub said the vessels were detained under Section 38 of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and the owners must come up with a RM1-million bond each as insurance that the ships will not leave port.
Should they fail to raise the bonds, they can be charged in court, he said.
He also said that state authorities would assist some 350 fishermen in the Pasir Gudang area affected by the oil spill to claim compensation from the owners of the ships.
The oil spill, though not as severe compared to spilled crude oil, should be cleaned up quickly to minimise environmental harm, said Associate Professor Johan Suhaili from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
If left unattended, he said the oil patches would harden over time and form tar balls which would be detrimental to the environment and marine life.
He said the incident was minor compared to the time a Britain-registered vessel spilled 5,495 tonnes of heavy fuel oil in Tanjung Piai waters last year.