CHINESE OIL TANKER GROUNDED ON PNG REEF

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Precarious situation with full cargo

By John Raga PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 31, 2010) - A fully loaded 90 meter oil tanker, M.T. Hai Soon, is sitting dangerously on the western reef off Bipi Island in Manus Province.

Paul Werei, public relations officer to the Manus Provincial Administrator, has confirmed that the oil tanker is fully loaded and stuck on the reef, awaiting rescue operations from a local salvaging company.

Mr. Werei said that the oil tanker ran ashore on August 17 at around 6pm when it was traveling on an international route.

The vessel was discharged in Hawai΄i on her way to the Solomon Sea to refuel fishing ships when it ran aground.

There was an emergency response team comprising officers from the Department of Environment and Conservation, fisheries and marine experts and the Manus provincial administration visited the vessel in the past few days to take control and monitor the situation.

The tanker is registered under a Tarawa oil company from China.

"We did an interview with the captain and according to receipts and documents received it showed that the vessel was fully licensed and is used on the high seas to supply foreign fishing vessels with fuel," said Werei.

Authorities have taken full control of the vessel and are organizing a towing and salvaging company from Madang to help with the rescue operation.

The investigators said the vessel is in good condition and the captain must have switched the engine to auto pilot when it ran off the international route with no one at the wheel house to control it.

"There are 12 crew members from China and 10 men from Myanmar on board the oil tanker with plenty of food and water to last for weeks," Werei said.

"Authorities are waiting for a salvaging team to bring a second oil tanker to pump oil into another ship with the aim of keeping it light in order to float her again," he said.

"The oil tanker will then be towed in to the Lorengau main wharf for further investigations," Werei said.

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