Coral reef 'unharmed' by oil slick
- Published: 31/07/2013 at 05:02 PM
- Online news:
Coral reef in the sea off Ao Phrao on Koh Samet has not been harmed by the oil slick, according to the Eastern Marine Fisheries Research and Development Centre.
Centre director Bumrungsak Chatananwet said two scuba divers had been sent on Tuesday to inspect the coral reef lying about seven metres below the surface and about 100 metres from Ao Phrao beach on Samet island, after PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC), Thailand's largest petrochemical producer, admitted that about 50,000 litres of crude oil leaked from an offshore pipeline feeding a refinery in the Map Ta Phut industrial estate, in Rayong, on Saturday.
A clean-up vessel fires a double stream of dispersant into a solid black sea just off Ao Prao beach on Wednesday. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
Part of the slick polluted Ao Phrao bay, a popular tourist destination on the west of the island, and washed up on the sandy beach. The largest part of the slick is still in the area and threatens beaches on the mainland.
"The oil slick has not damaged the coral reef. As for marine animals, the divers found only sea urchins," Mr Bumrungsak said.
He said the centre will later examine whether the area remains habitable for marine life.
Anond Snidvongs na Ayutthaya, director of the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda), said the thin crude oil film started to spread to other areas on Tuesday morning.
Most of the oil spill is located between Ao Noina and the north of Samet island.
"The crude oil film on the water surface might not be seen with our naked eyes but satellite photos can show it," Mr Anond said. "It might not have significant impact in the short run but in the long run it can harm the ecosystem and affect the food chain."
He said the film could spread to other provinces in the future if it is not contained.
A recent satellite photo showed a large amount of the oil slick had been removed. Clean-up agencies needed to contain the oil rather than using chemicals to dissolve it, Mr Anond said.
A satellite photo of the oil slick in the sea off the eastern province of Rayong as of 6.09am Wednesday. (Gistda photo)
Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, chairman of the Rayong Tourist Association, said there are other beaches on Samet island that have not been affected by the oil slick.
He said the tourism sector in the eastern coastal province has been heaviliy hit as a result of the cancellations of hotel and resort bookings by Thai and foreign tourists and tour groups.
"Ao Phrao is just one of the beaches on Samet island. Don't take it for granted that the entire island has been affected by the oil slick," Mr Chairat said.
He said that if relevant agencies fail to clean up the oil slick quickly enough it will hurt the whole tourism industry throughout the year.
Verapong Chaiperm, governor of the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT), expressed confidence the oil spill will not affect investor confidence, as people would realise it was an accident.
"The only thing people are concerned about is the time it takes to solve the problem, which is demonstrated by the dedication of all participating in the clean-up, so it should not take a long time," said Mr Verapong.
He said the IEAT has helped since day one by sending boats and equipment to the area.
Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn said some of the oil leakage from the containment booms may have been be caused by heavy rain and storms. The refiner responsible, PTTGC, had already set up a panel to investigate the situation.
Mr Pongsak said the company will compensate businesses that have suffered as a result of the spill, through the Rayong Administration Office.
The minister said he told PTTGC executives they must take full responsibility for the oil spill and the pollution and damage it causes.
He said a third party will examine and investigate damage to the environment, probably experts from universities and the Petroleum Institute of Thailand.
PTTGC chief executive officer Anon Siriseangtaksin said after the cleanup is complete, restoration of the area and payment for the damage will begin immediately before any claims are made on insurance. If the compensation amounts to more than the insured level of US$50 million (1.6 billion baht), PTTGC would not refuse to pay.
About the author
- Writer: Online Reporters
Position: Online Reporters