11 July 2024

Thailand’s navy and pollution experts are rushing to clear up an oil spill in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of the eastern province of Rayong today (Thursday), after an undersea pipeline leaked hundreds of thousands of litres of crude oil late Tuesday. Containment efforts are expected to last 7-10 days until the leaked oil is dissolved by chemicals.

The Pollution Control Department (PCD) has granted permission for the use of additional chemical dispersants in their continuing struggle to stop slicks of oil spilt, but its use must be under the department’s control.

The PCD’s director-general, Attapol Charoenpansa, told Thai PBS today that the dispersants will be released onto the surface of the sea from an aircraft and estimated that it will take 7-10 days for the chemicals to dissolve the oil, as he assured that the public will be kept updated and there will be no cover-ups.

The slicks were about 18 kilometres from the coast at the time of this report.

Meanwhile, the Marine Department has filed a complaint with the police against Star Petroleum Refining Company over the oil leak from its offshore pipeline. This filing will be followed by complaints from the Pollution Control Department and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, as both agencies are now assessing the damage to the environment caused by the spillage.

He pointed out that the actual amount of crude oil which leaked into the sea is still unknown, because the company claimed that only 50,000 litres of leaked out in its latest report, as opposed to 400,000 as initially reported. About 20,000 litres is estimated to remain on the sea surface.

Regarding the “OILMAP” simulation model, which shows that oil slicks are moving closer to the beaches and the Map Ta Phut seaport, Attapol said the Rayong provincial governor has asked all fishing vessels not to set to sea, because clean-up operations are underway, and tourists have been asked to stay out of the sea for the time being.

Volunteers have also been mobilised by the provincial administration to watch out for oil slicks on the beaches and in the surf close to the shoreline.

Deputy Public Health Minister Satit Pitutecha said that the spilt oil is not yet affecting tourist spots, such as mainland beaches and those on Koh Samet. He however urged fishers and anyone on the beaches who may happen to see oil slicks to take pictures and report the sighting. He also said that anyone in the area who experiences nausea, eye irritation, dizziness or chest pain should see a doctor at their nearest hospital.

Satit and Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit, arrived in Rayong today to inspect the situation and clean-up operations.

A pipeline leak in the same area in 2013 led to a major slick that coated a beach on Koh Samet, leaving recovery workers in protective suits to clear up the blackened sand.