20km fuel slick follows Suez ship crash

An oil slick stretching over 20km of the Suez Canal has been reported after a ship ploughed into the steep western bank of the strategic waterway.

The Liberian-flagged Grigoroussa 1 smashed into the side of the canal on Monday, February 27 spilling 3,000 tonnes of the 58,000 tonnes of heavy fuel it was carrying at the time of the accident.

The damaged vessel was towed to the port of Suez at the southern end of the canal and floating booms were deployed to contain the larger patches of the spill, which were then treated with foam.

Escaping fuel is likely to flow south into the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea, but is unlikely to reach the ecologically sensitive area of reefs beyond the mouth of the waterway at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

The Suez Canal Authority has, however, said it will be easier to contain and clean up the spill within the confined area of the canal than it would be in open seas.

It is believed ship hit a quay after suffering a mechanical failure as it travelled from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.

The vessel has been impounded by the Egyptian authorities who say it still presents a potential pollution risk.

Traffic through the canal was not affected by the spill.

The Suez Canal is one of the busiest waterways in the world and transit fees through the canal are among Egypt’s largest sources of income with almost US$3.5 billion collected from shipping last year.

By Sam Bond

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