On the side of Tunisian territorial waters, the tanker Xelo poses the risk of an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Gabes. If no leaks are identified at this time, time is running out to evacuate the charge.
The area has a population of about 400,000 and is an important fishing ground.
Why did the tanker sink?
The ship Xelo, flying the flag of Equatorial Guinea (IMO number 7618272), departed from the port of Damietta in Egypt, bound for Malta. And he went to the Tunisian authorities, Friday, April 15, to request permission to go to the territorial waters, due to the bad weather.
But despite this attempt to take cover, the merchant ship, which is 58 meters long and 9 meters wide, sank on Saturday, April 16. And while it was about 7 kilometers from the coast, the tanker began to suck the water that crept into the engine room, and its height rose to almost two meters.
What are the risks?
The Xelo is loaded with about 750 tons of diesel and could see its cargo spill into the Mediterranean. The Gulf of Gabes has already suffered from several pollutions in the past, but this could prove disastrous.
“There are minimal leaks that cannot be seen with the naked eye […] So there should be no disaster in the Gulf of Gabes.”Mohamed Karay, a spokesman for the Gabes court, which has opened an investigation into the causes of the accident, reassured.
However, the ship was weakened by the waves and lay on its side. Time is running out to secure the payload.
What actions have been taken?
Tunisian authorities have placed barriers against pollution at a perimeter of 200 meters around the sinking area.
Divers inspected the tanker’s hull on Sunday. According to them, the ship “It sank about 20 meters in a horizontal position and no cracks are visible.”stated in a press release of the Tunisian Ministry of Environment, adding that“No leaks were observed in the diesel shipment”.
Diving team was Accompanied by the ship’s captain and engineer who knows the ship’s composition.Mohamed Karay, a spokesman for the Gabes prosecutor’s office, which has opened an investigation into the causes of the accident, said.
The crew of seven, a Georgian captain, four Turks and two Azerbaijanis, were evacuated. Then the guys were brief “Staying in the hospital for a check up and staying in a hotel”.
As did the authorities The National Emergency Plan for the Prevention of Marine Pollution with the aim of controlling the situation and preventing the spread of pollutants..
Italian naval teams made themselves available to Tunisia to assist with the tanker’s security operations.
italian ambassador (in Tunisia, editorial board) Tunisian authorities contacted Lorenzo Fanara on Sunday, April 17, and the Italian government immediately decided to send a vessel to combat pollution and a team of specialized divers.Diplomatic sources said.
“The ship will arrive in Tunisian waters on Monday.”they added.
Pumping is imminent
According to the Minister of Transport, Rabie Al-Majidi, during the rescue operation, the rescuers “Be sure to close the bulkheads to avoid diesel leakage and divers find that they are intact.”.
The authorities’ priority remains pumping diesel.
that it “It is very difficult for divers to locate exits (reservations) to perform pumping”The Minister of Transport, while downplaying the risks, explained: 750 tons of diesel absolutely nothing And “Diesel evaporates easily in the sun.”
“The situation is not serious, the diagnosis is positive and the ship is stable because, fortunately, it sank on the sand.” The minister confirmed with his colleague from the environment.
The authorities said they are studying ‘Offers received to help them’ Also for pumping from the outside.