There is an awful scene around Nightingale Island with oil from the stricken MS Oliva eight miles offshore and more or less around the whole island.
The Greek-owned bulk carrier MS Oliva run aground on 4-km² Nightingale Island, part of the UK’s Tristan da Cunha Islands in the South Atlantic and home to large populations of albatrosses and other seabirds, in the early morning of 16 March.
The heavily-laden 75 300-tonne ship, registered in 2009, was proceeding from Santos in Brazil to Singapore with a cargo of Soya beans. A salvage tug is to leave Cape Town today and is expected to arrive at Nightingale on the 21st.
Meanwhile members of the Tristan Conservation Department are attempting to reach the site of the shipwreck to set rodent traps on the island as a precautionary measure but are currently being hampered by rough seas. Although the ship’s captain has stated it is free of rats, Nightingale is one of the few alien mammal-free islands in the Southern Ocean, and the arrival and establishment of rats would place its seabirds and land birds at severe risk.
Early this morning rough seas were also stalling the evacuation of the full complement of the ship’s crew to a crayfish fishing vessel that is standing by. Waves are now starting to break over the grounded ship and the first signs of spilled oil have also been noticed: bad news especially for the island’s penguins.
Nightingale supports important populations of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses Thalassarche chlororhynchos (c. 1000 pairs, endemic to the Tristan Group) and of Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetria fusca (c. 200 pairs).
Salvage Tug Halfway to Nightingale – Second vessel being chartered for the clean up
The salvage tug known by the name ‘John Ross’ left South Africa on Thursday 17th March and is now half way through its journey to Nightingale Island to the stricken vessel MS Oliva. Though widely known as John Ross since its 1976 construction in Durban, it has been renamed Smit Amandla and is operated by Smit Dudula Marine in South Africa. Capable of 21 knots, the 2918 tonne vessel is one of the most experienced vessels of its kind and is due to reach Nightingale Island at 14.00 on Monday 21st March. Unfortunately, now MS Oliva is breaking up,the tug’s role will not be to pull the MS Oliva off the reef at Spinners Point, re-float her and tow her back to port. We await news on Monday regarding how the tug will remove the remains of MS Oliva, and whether these can be salvaged or consigned to the ocean depths.
A second vessel is being chartered by the owners / their insurers to assist in the clean-up operation. The Environmental Adviser aboard the ‘John Ross’ may need to make a preliminary assessment before this second vessel sails to ensure correct equipment, materials and staff are on board for this complex operation in the isolated South Atlantic.
Report from Administrator Sean Burns at 10.00
Awful Scene around Nightingale Island – Rescue Operation for oil smothered Rockhopper Penguins
Sean has only just returned to the Tristan da Cunha Settlement having been aboard MV Edinburgh overnight unable to land back at Calshot Harbour with the rest of the Assessment Team yesterday evening.
Sean reports an awful scene around Nightingale Island with oil from the stricken MS Oliva eight miles offshore and more or less around the whole island. The slick ranges from thin films of oil, small balls and larger clumps of tar with the smell of diesel everywhere.
Tristan Conservation Team of Simon Glass, Wayne Swain and Matthew Green are busy doing what they can to clean up Northern Rockhopper Penguins presently coming ashore smothered in oil on Nightingale Island. Penguins have finished their breeding cycle and most adults have also left the island after their annual moulting ashore. So birds would not be expected to be coming ashore at this time of year when it would be usual only to see adults leaving with their new feathers.
Another concern is the impact that the ship’s cargo of 60,000 tonnes of whole raw soya beans will have on the fragile local marine environment, especially any long-term effect on the economically valuable fishing industry for crawfish, crayfish or Tristan Rock Lobster (Jasus tristani) which is the mainstay of Tristan da Cunha’s economy. The fishing vessel MV Edinburgh is operated by the fishing company ovenstone which manages with concession on behalf of the Tristan Government – see Fishing Page.
The cruise ship Prince Albert II is anchored at Tristan today and passengers are coming ashore. So it will be an opportunity to thank the crew who facilitated the rescue of the remaining ten MS Olivia crew members on Thursday 17th just a few hours before the bulk tanker broke up.