Indonesia says Panama-flagged ship caused major oil spill – ASEAN/East Asia


BALIKPAPAN: Indonesia on Wednesday blamed a Panama-flagged ship for causing a major oil spill off Borneo island that killed five and sparked its worst environmental disaster in years.

The Southeast Asian nation’s navy said the nearly 230-metre long cargo ship MV Ever Judger was the only cargo vessel in the area at the time of the accident last month, adding that the ship’s 12-ton anchor was likely what ruptured an undersea pipe.

Divers found a nearly 500-metre-long gash torn into the seabed which resembles the vessel’s anchor, investigators said.

“We suspect the undersea pipe rupture was caused by the ship’s anchor,” Harjo Susmoro, head of the Indonesian navy’s oceanography and hydrography centre, said Wednesday.

It is not clear if the Chinese captain or any of the 22 crew will be charged.

Vessels are allowed to sail in the area but they’re prohibited from dropping anchor to avoid damaging the undersea pipes.

The accident led to a huge oil spill and prompted local authorities to declare a state of emergency.

The leakage started in waters near Balikpapan city and spread more than two dozen kilometres (16 miles), coating large areas of the coast in thick black sludge.

Five fishermen died in a fire sparked by workers who were trying to clear the spill by burning it off the water’s surface.

The oil pipe belonged to Indonesia’s national oil company Pertamina. -AFP

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