Australia sends more help to Solomon Islands to stop oil spill

Vastavam web: Australia is sending more help to the Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands to stop oil from a grounded cargo ship destroying a World Heritage-listed marine sanctuary, Australia’s foreign minister said on Sunday.At least 75 tonnes of heavy fuel oil has spilled from Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier Solomon Trader since Cyclone Oma drove it onto a reef at Rennell Island on Feb. 5.

The ship was carrying 700 tonnes of oil when it ran aground and there are fears the remaining fuel will spoil Rennell Island, the world’s largest raised coral atoll and home to many species found nowhere else. “Up to 75 tonnes of heavy fuel oil from the ship has dispersed across the Island’s sea and shoreline, contaminating the ecologically delicate area.

“Given escalating ecological damage, and a lack of action by commercial entities involved, the Solomon Islands Government has requested Australia’s assistance.” Payne said in response, Australia was sending equipment, vessels and experts under the leadership of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

The United Nations body describes the site, with its unique limestone formations, a large lake and dense forest, as “a true natural laboratory for scientific study”. UNESCO listed East Rennell as “in danger” in 2013 for threats posed by commercial logging of its forests for export to China and the introduction of rats. Indonesian firm Bintan Mining SI chartered the ship to take bauxite from its mine on the western half of Rennell Island to China. Bintan Mining could not be immediately reached for comment.