Climate and Environment

Calmer seas, weaker winds can help oil spill cleanup — marine scientists

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Calmer seas, weaker winds can help oil spill cleanup � marine scientists
An oil spill boom blocks oil soaked flotsam from entering the Casiligan River in Pola, Oriental Mindoro on March 21, 2023. A leaking oil tanker that sank in the Philippines three weeks ago has been found, officials said on March 21, 2023, as the slick reached waters known for their rich marine life.
AFP/Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — Authorities have a window of opportunity to clean and contain the oil leaking from MT Princess Empress with calmer seas and weaker winds, marine scientists said.

Citing a report from the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) said the oil slick from the sunken tanker has covered a 37.84-square kilometer area — larger than Las Piñas in Metro Manila.

The UP-MSI explained that weaker winds and calmer seas allow the formation of large oil slicks, which could help make containment and cleanup easier.

"Calmer seas and larger slicks should be taken as an opportunity to collect the oil in slicks near the sunken tanker using booms and skimmers, and ramp up clean-up efforts to prevent the oil from spreading further," the marine scientists said.

MT Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil when it sank off Oriental Mindoro on February 28.

The oil spilled by the vessel has reached the shores of Antique in the Visayas and parts of Palawan and Batangas in Luzon.

According to the UP-MSI, the easterlies—or the winds coming from the east—may push the oil slick further westward to the Verde Island Passage, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions.

The VIP—considered the global center of marine biodiversity—is home to 1,700 fish species, 300 coral species, and 36 marine protected areas.

Two million people, including fishermen and tourism workers, also depend on the marine corridor’s rich marine resources.

A Japanese remotely-operated vehicle on Tuesday finally spotted the MT Princess Empress. According to the Philippine Coast Guard, oil leaks had been observed from all eight compartments or tanks, and some through the ballast tank.

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