An early morning accident at the Duque de Caxias Refinery on 18 January resulted in more than 1 million litres of oil spilling into Guanabara Bay. Petrobras admitted that the spill was caused by a break in one of 14 pipelines that pump oil from the refinery to its Ilha D’Agua terminal.

Petrobras has been at pains to show how quickly it implemented its emergency action plan and how seriously it takes the economic and environmental damage the spill has caused. But Greenpeace Brazil has told edie that Petrobras’ ‘responsible’ attitude has not diffused fully the Brazilian public’s anger at the worst spill the bay has seen since1975.

“From the very first reports it was clear that Petrobras was responsible and all the media has kept that clear,” Renato Guimaraes of Greenpeace Brazil told edie. “There is a feeling, mostly in Rio de Janeiro, that Petrobras was incompetent and unable to manage an event of this kind. The fishermen, who were directly affected by the oil spill, are especially angry since the company is delaying to cover their losses.”

In addition to its spill minimisation operations – using 28,000m of buoyant barriers – Petrobras has also distributed food and set up medical centres for the more than one thousand fishermen who have registered as having been affected by the spill. As immediate shock of the spill recedes, negotiations with fishermen are focusing on compensation for their loss of livelihood. The Government has also stated that it will seek compensation from Petrobras.

Although a bird rehabilitation centre has been established, Reuters reports that ecologists are particularly worried that the spill will further damage four protected mangrove swamps that take up 1,500 hectares. A smaller spill in 1997 of 600,000 litres resulted in damage to the mangrove area from which it has yet to recover fully.

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