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Pollution due to the explosion of the oil tanker the Limburg

On Sunday 6 October 2002, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to send three members of BEA Mer (the "Bureau Enquête Accidents Mer", French Marine Casualty Investigation Board), belonging to the Ministry of Transport, and an expert from Cedre on site. Their mission was to evaluate the consequences of the pollution generated by the explosion and the burning of 12,000 tonnes of crude Arabian heavy. They arrived in Al Mukalla on Tuesday 8 October and met the Minister of Transport and the Minister of the Environment and Tourism to set up a joint working plan.

 
 The damaged area had been defined by overflights and land inspections. It spread 70 km from Riyan airport to Mayfa. Medium and low polluted areas suceeded each other, small but highly damaged areas were near large untouched areas. The estimated onshore volume was around 300 to 400 cubic metres, and was made up of dense and viscous residue from oil spill burning. Immersed oil slicks may have remained, mainly on the coasts close to the terminal (where water is rich in sediment/deposit) and because of the high density of the residue. The pollution was composed of tar balls, oil patties and sometimes of patches a few metres in diameter.

Wadi Hallah: carbonated residue area
Wadi Hallah: carbonated residue area

 
 Offshore long iridescent and silvery zones were observed parallel to the coast, a few nautical miles out. However, some areas (off Burum) showed brown slicks a few nautical miles long and around ten metres wide, with a volume of five to ten cubic metres of crude emulsions spilled from the vessel after the fire.
 
 The drifting oil was estimated at about thirty cubic metres. Only a few iridescences leaked from the vessel when the last flight went over on Monday 14 October.
 
 The action plan consisted of establishing zones according to the intensity of pollution and on littoral facies. Cleaning priorities were set up by experts from the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited (ITOPF), from the Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL), from Nexen, from Yemen authorities and from Cedre. This plan included training the cleaning teams and priority cleaning of accessible beaches and rocks with a recreational or economic interest. Around a hundred workers from a local public works society were trained by OSRL, while ITOPF trained workers from the French Company Le Foch Dépollution to clean rocks. Headquarters were established in Al Mullaka, under the authority of the harbour master and with the assistance of two experts from IMO.

Damaged rocks east of Al Mukalla
Damaged rocks east of Al Mukalla

 
To sum up, the pollution was of medium intensity, with a few more seriously affected areas. No dead birds or fish were recorded, only the ghost crabs from long sandy beaches were seriously affected. The action plan and the headquarters of Al Mullaka may have been the opportunity for for Yemen authorities to create a National Action Plan.

 On Sunday 6 October 2002, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to send three members of BEA Mer (the “Bureau Enquête Accidents Mer”, French Marine Casualty Investigation Board), belonging to the Ministry of Transport, and an expert from Cedre on site.

Tar balls northeast of Al Mukalla
Tar balls northeast of Al Mukalla

 

Oil patty east of Al Mukalla
Oil patty east of Al Mukalla
Immersed oil slick off Riyan airport
Immersed oil slick off Riyan airport
Last update: 24/10/2002