Hijacked Tanker Potential Environmental Disaster

Monday, December 14, 2009

IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos expressed concern that adverse weather conditions and other contributing factors may bring about an accident to the supertanker Maran Centaurus – hijacked by pirates on 29 November 2009 with a cargo of 2 million barrels of crude oil – possibly resulting in an environmental catastrophe off the coast of Somalia, where the vessel is currently being held.

The vessel, with a 28-member crew, was some 800 miles from the Seychelles Islands when it was hijacked and then taken to an area off the port of Hobyo in Somalia. Weather conditions are said to be changing for the worse in the area which, coupled with reported unsafe anchorage conditions, has led to concerns that the vessel might be damaged by grounding, leading to its cargo being spilled and resulting in serious ecological damage.

Mitropoulos is concerned that, while any hijacking incident is to be deplored because of its impact on the seafarers on board, the potential for ecological disaster, in an area of the world that presently lacks the infrastructure, equipment, resources and expertise to cope with it, makes this a particular case.

Accordingly, in a letter to the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, Mitropoulos has expressed concern that any accident to the ship might, because of the large quantity of oil carried in its tanks, cause serious environmental damage, with repercussions to the nearby fishing grounds and consequent negative economic impact on the livelihood of the population in the area.

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