On February 5th Rennell Island, part of the Solomon Islands, saw the worst oil spill in the nation’s history when a bulk carrier ran aground at a coral reef releasing 80 tonnes of oil.
The carrier, the MV Solomon Trader, was loading bauxite from a mine in Kangava Bay when it encountered bad weather from Cyclone Oma. It collided with a coral reef where damage to its hull and fuel tanks resulted in the spilling of heavy fuel across the shoreline and beaches.
A UNESCO listed World Heritage site, Rennell Island is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. The Solomon Islands are part of the Coral Triangle, an area of tropical marine waters referred to as the ‘global centre of biodiversity’ with over 500 species of reef-building corals.
The spill on the reef was both gas oil and heavy oil. Gas oil is made up of smaller molecules, evaporating faster than heavy oil yet it’s significantly toxic to living things, killing organisms that inhale the fumes or absorb the oils through its skin.
Heavy oils are less toxic yet have a thick consistency which when it covers the feathers of birds or the fur of marine animals, it prevents the animals from maintaining their normal body temperatures, causing death from hypothermia. Oil can also easily be mistaken for food by animals.
Fuel continued to leak from the wreck for more than a month after running aground as the shipowner claimed weather conditions were hampering a clean-up operation. The Solomon Islands requested a leading international marine emergency specialist Resolve Marine Group to manage the clean-up who approached us to supply them.
While we’ve been involved in hazardous spill clean-ups for marine disasters and shipwrecks, it was the first time for an incident of this scale. With stock holdings across our Australian branches we were able to supply Personal Protective Equipment to protect the clean-up crew, absorbents to clean the spill and the correct disposal products for the contaminated absorbents.
To clean up the spill on the surface of the water and along the shoreline we supplied:
For disposal of the contaminated absorbents we supplied 21,000 Hazardous Waste Disposal Bags and 16,000 Cable Ties. In addition, Personal Protective Equipment such as Disposable Coveralls, Safety Gloves, and Gumboots were supplied to keep the clean-up crew safe and free from contamination.
“As a team who loves to spend time on the water, particularly fishing, we’re always saddened to see these types of marine disasters” said Stratex General Manager Shannon Harris. “We had the stock holdings of environmental products to quickly supply Resolve Marine Group so they could effectively and efficiently respond to the spill”.
We hope that incidents like the Solomon Islands Spill never occur again, but if they do, we are driven to continue to play our part in protecting our greatest assets – the environment and its people.