Stab Magazine | Australian Government Comes To The Rescue In Solomon Islands Oil Spill

Australian Government Comes To The Rescue In Solomon Islands Oil Spill

A quite ironic warning to the proposed Bight drilling.

news // Mar 5, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

As the campaign to “Save The Bight” in Australia builds a full head of steam and surfers are chanting down the petrol devil, a case from the Solomon Islands of what happens when oil lands in an unspoiled ocean.

On Feb. 5 the Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, the Solomon Trader, was grounded on the reef at Rennell Island in the Solomons. It’s been there ever since.

Last weekend Reuters reported that the ship has already spilled over 75 tonnes of heavy fuel oil. The ship has 700 tonnes of oil on board and officials are concerned that it will spoil before a salvage operation can be executed. It has already leaked across 6km of coastline.

“Given escalating ecological damage, and a lack of action by commercial entities involved, the Solomon Islands Government has requested Australia’s assistance,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in a release on Sunday.

Rennell Island is listed as a World Heritage marine sanctuary, a UNESCO site, and is the world’s largest raised coral atoll. It’s home to numerous species of land and sea creatures that are exclusive to the island. Basically, it’s as ecologically sensitive an area as you’ll find anywhere on the planet—and the situation appears to be growing direr.

“Australia remains extremely concerned by the ongoing risk of a major oil spill,” continued Payne.

The U.N. describes Rennell Island as home to about 1,200 people of Polynesian origin. They note that the population survives primarily “by subsistence gardening, hunting and fishing.”

The U.N. goes on to warn that “frequent cyclones can have severe consequences for the local people.” That seems pretty obvious at this point.

Situated off the east coast of Papua New Guinea, the Solomons are a bit of an obscure surf destination for most, but they’ve got their secrets. With over 900 islands in the archipelago, they’re exposed to north swells in the winter months and south swells in the summer, but that’s all we’re saying.

The Solomon Trader was reportedly chartered by the Indonesian firm Bintan Mining SI. It was loading bauxite, a clay that is mined for its high aluminum content on the west end of Rennell Island, when Cyclone Oma hit. It was intended to be shipped to China for processing.


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