Tasman Spirit: Karachi Oil Spill Update

September’s issues of both the “Herald”:http://www.dawn.com/herald/ and “Newsline”:http://www.newsline.com.pk/ have the Oil Spill as their cover stories. For the inside information on the ongoing fiasco which is the cleanup and the multiple commitees investigating it, it’s a must buy. Neither have the articles available online (or a decent website for that matter), but the print version is available online and in most newstands around the country. I had been earlier following the oil spill day by day as I was concerned/worried that it was going to spill a lot more than the 12,000 tons which the authorities kept claiming, and due to the fact that the “local newspapers did a very bad job of reporting the oil spill”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_08/oil_spill_off_pakistan_worse_than_first_thought.html. After that, it made no sense to follow anything as every day brought more of the same ludicrous statements by various ‘dignitaries’. The Herald and Newsline have done a brilliant job of covering/investigating the past month, so I’m glad I didn’t attempt to cover that.

They also both have articles about the fact that _few residents of Pakistan’s largest coastal city realise the extent of the damage caused by the oil spill from Tasman Spirit_. I’d “written earlier”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_08/pakistan_oil_spill_update.html about this, and while I’m no environmentalist or know much about oil spills, based on previous spills of this magnitude, we can can say goodbye to Clifton beach for at least a decade. They’re still cleaning up in Alaska, and we’re still forming commitee after high powered commitee. While the oil spill might only be visible in the area around Clifton beach (for a 16km stretch) it’s effects go well beyond that.

bq.. Corruption, incompetence and sheer lack of interest. That more or less sums up the role played by the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) management in the sordid ongoing saga of Tasman Spirit, the Greek-owned tanker that ran aground off the Karachi coast on July 27. The apathy of the two organisations contributed not only to the vessel?s beaching but also the devastating oil spill that has since disfigured the coastline and dealt a deadly blow to the marine ecosystem. What’s more, their knee-jerk reaction to deny that anything had gone wrong at all may rebound now if the one-billion-dollar claim being prepared by the PNSC against Polembros, the company that owned Tasman Spirit, goes to court.

A month after the Tasman Spirit ran aground, officials at the KPT as well as the PNSC have gone absolutely quiet. The reason: anything that they say to the media at this stage may be held against them if the issue of claims for the damage done to Karachi goes to court. However, given that their sheer incompetence stands completely exposed, their silence may have more to do with the fact that they still have no answers to several tricky questions that the world?s largest oil spill since 1996 has raised. Investigations by the Herald indicate that from the time that Tasman Spirit was beached, the negligence and indifference shown by the KPT and the PNSC bordered on the criminal. The two authorities neither had a contingency plan to deal with the situation nor was their top echelon even aware of the standard operating procedures that are to be followed in such situations.

>> “Herald: Ship of Fools”:http://www.dawn.com/herald/main.htm

p. “Dawn”:http://dawn.com has had a number of articles on the oil spill in the past few days:

bq. As was expected, the super high-powered committee, formed on the orders of Big Chief President General Pervez Musharraf to tackle the oil spill and its consequent damage, is floundering.

>> “Dawn: Cowasjee: Tasman Spirit IV”:http://www.dawn.com/weekly/cowas/cowas.htm

This one is also worth reading: “Poor handling of oil spill disaster”:http://www.dawn.com/2003/09/15/ebr4.htm

I’m currently reading both the Herald and Newsline, so I’ll update this later.

*Update:* Newsline’s “cover story on the oil spill is available online”:http://www.newsline.com.pk/cover1sep2003.htm. It sums up everything from beginning to end quite well.

*Update:* The assessment carried out by the United Nations Environment Programme together with the World Conservation Union on the environmental damage caused by the spill has finished. It doesn’t look very good.

bq.. BANGKOK, 23 September 2003 — An international team convened to assess the environmental damage caused by oil spilled from the tanker MT Tasman Spirit has reported its findings and recommendations to the Government of Pakistan.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which provided inputs and advice on the preparation of the report together with the World Conservation Union (IUCN), said that acute effects were evident and further scientific investigation was warranted to determine the extent of damage to the ecosystems around Karachi.

…The preliminary assessment report estimated that, despite intensive efforts to transfer, disperse, contain and recover the oil, the area impacted by the spill covers at least 40 square kilometres.

It documents reports of extensive hydrocarbon contamination in seawater samples; counts of 1,000 dead fish at a single sampling station in a day; cell damage in phytoplankton communities; reduced numbers of polycheate worms, shellfish and starfish in the surface sands of Clifton Beach; and a possible loss of regeneration in mangroves.

It also notes that 250 people sought treatment at a medical camp set up after the spill for respiratory ailments attributed to petroleum carbon exposure.

Further immediate work is needed on the trajectory of the spill, sampling of water and sediments, biological monitoring and carcass surveys, the report says. It also calls for more detailed assessment of health impacts on the local population and other socio-economic damages.

This should be followed by in depth studies to determine the impacts on mangroves, fish and shellfish, birds, marine mammals and sea turtles.

The report concludes that these findings should then form the basis for long-term studies and a restoration programme.

>> “Damage from Pakistan Tanker Spill Documented”:http://www.enn.com/direct/display-release.asp?objid=D1D1366D000000F7CE8CAE3A9B646EEA

4 thoughts on “Tasman Spirit: Karachi Oil Spill Update”

  1. May 15, 2004: HYDERABAD – Water disasters seem to have inflicted Pakistan for a while. The sea water may have been cleaned by now but there are other sources of contamination scourging the River Indus. The recent supply of contaminated water into the Hyderabad Water Supply is gradually making it’s mark as the biggest water disaster after the Tasman Spirit Oil Spill. The bells have tolled for quite a lot of people in the region close to the contamination seepage.

    The Manchar Lake is considered to be at the origin of this contamination leading to diarrhoeal diseases like malaria, typhoid, hepatitis E, trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness, intestinal nematode infections such as hookworm or roundworm, schistosomiasis and giardiasis. Some weblogs have been cited with the titles “I don’t want Gastroenteritis” on the internet but it won’t budge a stir in the Sindh Government’s investigation process in the region and for the contamination inquiry (if any of them even had time to relate their devotion to such matters of trivial calamity that the people in Hyderabad are undergoing).

  2. Hi

    I am Post graduate student of Environmental managemnt in Glasgow Caledonian university scotland . I need information about oil spillage in Kaarachi in year 2003. Can you send details with photographs please.

    Thanks in anticipation

    Muhammad Afzal

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