France Press agency , Posted on Sunday, April 17, 2022 at 8:45 pm
Divers revealed no leaks: Divers inspected the hull of the tanker that sank the day before near Gabes, off the southeast coast of Tunisia, Sunday, and found no leaks in its 750-tonne diesel cargo.
According to the divers, the ship “sank to a depth of about 20 meters, in a horizontal position and no cracks appear,” the Tunisian Ministry of Environment said in a press release, adding that “no leakage was found in the ship’s cargo.” diesel”.
The team of divers were “accompanied by the captain and mechanic of the ship who know the composition of the ship,” said AFP Mohamed Karay, a spokesman for the Gabes Public Prosecutor’s Office, which has opened an investigation into the causes of the accident. the incident.
The oil tanker Zelo, which left the port of Damietta in Egypt for Malta, sank on Saturday in Tunisian waters where it took refuge the previous evening due to bad weather.
The ship, 58 meters long and 9 wide, began to suck water in the engine room. The authorities then proceeded to evacuate the seven crew members, before the Xelo sank at dawn.
In a video from the Environment Ministry on Sunday, we only see the tip of a mast emerging from the waves. The area controlled by the military, cannot be accessed by the press.
– meticulous operation –
According to the Minister of Transport, Rabie Al-Majidi, “during the rescue operation, the rescuers made sure to close the barriers to avoid diesel leakage and the divers found that they were intact.”
“The situation is not serious, the diagnosis is positive, the ship is stable because it sank on the sand, fortunately,” the minister stressed during a press statement Sunday at the port of Gabes with his colleague from “the environment”.
Floating anti-pollution booms have already been installed on a perimeter of 200 meters around the wreck.
But the authorities’ priority remains pumping diesel.
The Minister of Transport explained to the press that “it is very difficult for divers to determine the exits (from the chambers) to do the pumping,” while downplaying the risks: “750 tons of diesel is nothing” and “diesel evaporates easily in the sun.”
The authorities said they were considering “offers to assist” the pump, also from abroad.
Diplomatic sources told AFP that “the Tunisian authorities contacted the Italian ambassador (in Tunisia, editor’s note) Lorenzo Vanara, and the Italian government decided immediately to send a ship to combat pollution and a team of specialized divers.”
They added that “the ship will arrive in Tunisian waters on Monday.”
– ship investigation –
Pending the pumping of the cargo, conservation organization WWF has warned of a “new ecological catastrophe” in an area that is considered a fishing ground for “about 34,000 seafarers” and has suffered from episodes of pollution, particularly due to the phosphate industries and the presence of an oil pipeline in recent decades.
Tunisian officials are also interested in the course of the ship, which was built in 1977 and raises the flag of Equatorial Guinea, and its owners are Turkish and Libyan, according to the Public Prosecution Office in Gabes.
“The bill of lading + an important document (about the ship’s route and shipment, editor’s note) was left by the crew on the ship,” Environment Minister Leila Chikhaoui said.
The Ministry of Transport is seeking “to verify the exact nature of the ship’s activity and course over the past few weeks.”
According to this ministry, the ship Xelo was stationed from 4 to 8 April in the Tunisian port of Sfax, north of Gabes, “to change the crew, refuel and carry out light repairs, without loading or unloading.”
Local media pointed to the proximity of the Gulf of Gabes to Libya, a major oil-producing country whose coasts have been the scene of oil and gas smuggling in recent years.