Australia is sending more experts, vessels and equipment to Solomon Islands to stem an oil spill increasingly damaging a World Heritage-listed marine sanctuary and threatening islanders’ livelihoods.
The vessel Solomon Trader grounded on a reef during Cyclone Oma while collecting bauxite ore from remote Rennell Island last month and has spilled up to 75 tonnes of oil next to the marine reserve.
Following deployment of Australian Maritime Safety Authority experts to help the Solomons government confirm ongoing leakage from the vessel, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said specialised personnel, equipment and vessels would be sent out to work under AMSA and alongside local efforts.
She said on Sunday this was in response to ‘escalating ecological damage and a lack of action by commercial entities’, which Australia
‘Rennell Island is home to a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site and the people of Rennell rely on the ocean and natural resources of the island for their livelihoods,’ Ms Payne said in a statement.
‘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. More than 600 tonnes of heavy fuel oil remains on the stricken vessel.’
The company that chartered the ship, Bintan Mining Corporation, has said it has no liability in the case, but is assisting in the salvage.
Ms Payne said Australia continued to back the Solomon Islands government’s efforts to ensure the commercial parties responsible for the incident took action and were held responsible.
Bad weather hampered early efforts to assess the damage and last week it was reported that problems with an onboard emergency generator stalled the clean-up effort.