Emerald Princess potential oil spill threatens Philippines ecosystem

A potential oil spill from sunken tanker Princess Empress(MMSI 548372700) has seen environment and disaster authorities in the Philippines racing against time to mitigate the impact of the sinking.

Oil emanating from the Philippines-flagged vessel has reached coastal towns on a large central island.

The tanker sank when en route to Iloilo province, and was carrying about 800,000 litres of industrial fuel oil (IMN, March 2nd). The vessel had encountered engine trouble on Tuesday February 28th due to overheating. It then drifted due to rough sea conditions, the Philippines Coast Guard said. The 50-metre x 9-metre 2022-built ship then sank off the northeast coast of Mindoro. The 20 crew were rescued by a nearby general cargo ship. No injuries were reported.

Philippines environment ministry undersecretary Carlos Primo David said that it was crucial for authorities to find the tanker soon as there could still be a large volume of oil inside. “If we can recover it, that will help us a lot in containing the spill,” he said in a media briefing.

Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga said that a rapid assessment was being undertaken of coastal and marine habitats that could be impacted. The ministry said that about 591 hectares of coral reefs, 1,626 hectares of mangroves and 362 hectares of seagrass were at risk.

“The possible contamination might actually affect the viability of these systems,” Loyzaga warned.