Maritime pollution response develops fast

2018-01-09 10:15Global Times Editor: Li Yan ECNS App Download

Nation must improve technology to deal with oceanic oil spills

China's response mechanism on oceanic oil pollution has made sound progress in recent years and become internationalized, and these efforts will be taken into the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative as the country's comprehensive power strengthens and its investment rises in environmental protection, experts said.

The oil spill off China's east coast from the Sanchi tanker burned fiercely on Monday morning, China's Ministry of Transport said on its official WeChat account, noting there is a possible risk that the tanker will explode and sink. The toxic gas it produces through evaporation and explosions causes huge harm to the rescue crews, it said.

There are three professional rescue ships, four public service vessels, two cleaning boats and several fishing boats searching for the missing crew of the tanker, which included 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. The vessels are also controlling the oil spill, it noted.

A body was found during the Chinese boat's rescue operations, but its identification still needs confirmation, said China's Foreign Ministry on Monday.

The Sanchi tanker, run by Iran's top oil shipping operator, was carrying 136,000 tons of condensate, a type of light oil, to South Korea. The ship collided with Hong Kong-registered CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles off China's coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta on Saturday evening, said the Ministry of Transport.

The ministry said that the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration designated the area to be avoided as being within a 10-nautical-mile range from the tanker.

The agency also issued navigational warnings to prevent secondary accidents.

International rescue efforts also joined including South Korea dispatching a ship and a helicopter and the US Navy sending a military plane to help.

The environmental impact of the oil spill might be mitigated thanks to the distance of the collision from the nearest coastline, Qiao Bing, deputy director of the Academic Committee with the China Waterborne Transport Research Institute, told the Global Times on Monday.

Qiao said that China has taken an international role in the area of oil spill response actions and made remarkable progress in sea transport management and accident controls in recent years.

China joined in 1990 the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, an international maritime convention for dealing with marine oil pollution incidents nationally and in cooperation with other countries and regions.

In 2000, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China announced national and sea area contingency plans, an oil-spill pollution response system at the national, provincial, municipal and port levels.

"Nonetheless, we need to further develop such technologies as navigation, satellite remote sensing, intelligent driving and emergent searching ability," Qiao noted.

However, factors beyond China's control, such as collisions involving foreign vessels that cause pollution in China's maritime areas, should be tackled with new measures, Qiao said. One example is a key project on maritime environmental safety guarantees to be launched in 2018.

"Many research teams affiliated with the Ministry of Transport have been preparing for the project related to the B&R countries and regions, which signals a trend for our emergency response technologies to go global in the future," Qiao remarked.

"In terms of response technology research, it still takes some time for China to shift from following to acting in parallel with international standards, and then taking the lead in the future," said Qiao.

The State Council, China's cabinet, approved in 2016 the country's first oil spill emergency response scheme to be ready by 2020 to tackle increasing risks from offshore leakages.

For the first time, it included enterprises in such sectors as oil exploration and pollution cleaning to be part of the national plan, to improve the market mechanism.

In terms of response technologies, pollution cleanup procedures must be enhanced, according to Qiao. "In this regard, better equipment and sustainable training of staff in the sector are essential," Qiao stressed.


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