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Power Barge (PB 103)

Power Barge (PB 103)
Accident date
Accident area
Estancia, Panay Island, Iloilo Province
Spill area
Cause of spill
Weather conditions
Quantity transported
1,385 tonnes
Nature of pollutant
Heavy fuel oil
Quantity spilled
500 tonnes
Ship / structure type
65 m
NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation)

The incident

On 8th November 2013, in the Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) struck with extraordinary force, with winds of up to 275 km/h, the Power Barge n°103 ran aground on the shores of Estancia. This 32-megawatt barge-mounted power station, carrying 1,400 m3 of heavy fuel oil, operated by NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation) broke loose from its mooring to the south of Estancia (Iloilo Province, Panay Island).

The typhoon was first and foremost a humanitarian emergency and the whole country was mobilised. The disaster caused a huge number of victims and destroyed many homes. On 30th September, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council released some startling figures:

  • 14.1 million people affected by the typhoon
  • 4.1 million people displaced
  • 1.1 million homes damaged
  • 6,155 deaths recorded and 1,785 people missing.

Spill response efforts were organised against this complex backdrop, in terms of the availability of human and logistical resources, but also of equipment (the roads were scattered with debris making it difficult to bring in equipment) and health issues (many inhabitants lived in the contaminated area).



Response at sea and on land

The barge's crew implemented the initial emergency measures, deploying a boom around the wreck, but tanks that had been damaged when the vessel ran aground released fuel oil, heavily polluting Barangay Botongon, near Estancia's port area, along a 1 km-stretch towards the north. A change in wind direction in the following days drove the oil up to 10 km southwards. A variety of shorelines were affected: sand, rocks and mangroves.

Response operations started on the 11th, conducted by some 40 people from the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG) which provided additional response equipment. This supplementary containment and recovery equipment included floating booms, pumps, skimmers (2), vacuum trucks, power packs... The response operations both onshore and offshore were difficult due to the large amounts of debris generated by the typhoon. Booms were set up around the barge to contain the oil. The structure of the barge was assessed. Around 100 local inhabitants were recruited and paid to clean up the shoreline. A small oil tanker, the Obama, was stationed in the harbour in anticipation of fuel removal and storage.

In early December the fuel oil remaining in the tanks of the power barge was pumped out and transferred to the Obama pending evacuation. Offshore oil recovery operations were completed on 16th December and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment announced that approximately 470 tonnes had been recovered from the tanks of the barge and around 340 tonnes of pollutant had been recovered from around the barge and in the harbour thanks to the booms deployed. These estimations suggest that around 500 tonnes had been released into the environment, of which around 200 tonnes were present within the immediate vicinity of the barge (Barangay Botongon).



Manual recovery operations were undertaken on the shoreline, using buckets and scoops, and involved local residents. Up to 300 people were involved in the manual collection of debris and pollutant in the port of Estancia. A large quantity of rice straw, an abundantly available local resource, was used as sorbent, which enhanced recovery operations.



Ten days after the incident, the oil slicks had spread despite the containment systems deployed. On the 21st, Kuan Yu Global Technologies Inc. (KYGT), a private company, was contracted by PSALM Corp. (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation), the State's energy agency, and NAPOCOR, to remove the oil from the barge, refloat the wreck, clean up the shoreline, remove and dispose of debris and waste oil.

The representative of the Department of Health recommended that responders wear a mask to protect them against light volatile compounds in the air due to evaporation of the oil. The Philippine Government sent masks to improve worker protection. When operations began, the appropriate protective equipment was lacking. The workers were exposed through contact with the oil and inhalation of volatile fractions.




From the 9th, the Philippine Government accepted the offer of international assistance made by the United Nations, through two initiatives: the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). On the 10th, a first team of 25 experts was mobilised.

The population's livelihood depended mainly on fishing. It was therefore crucial to restore access to the sea as quickly as possible. The slow progress of clean-up operations and fears of changes in weather conditions, with the barge still leaking, led EMB to officially request international assistance on 22nd. This support was provided via the Joint UNEP-OCHA Environment Unit and the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) through its operational centre (ERCC). Through the activation of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, an expert from Cedre was mobilised from 28th November to 23rd December to assist the Philippine authorities. He conducted surveys to assess the spread and intensity of the pollution and drew up recommendations for clean-up operations as well as on environmental impact assessment.  

On 4th December, a team of 8 members of the Japan Coast Guard conducted an assistance mission. This involved the adjustment of booms, storage of waste from around the barge and equipment provision.



From 16th to 24th December, an expert from ITOPF (International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd) was sent on site by the barge's P&I Club to assess the pollution and clean-up operations.



According to air samples taken in mid-November, atmospheric pollution reached critical levels according to the Department of Health. Its representative recommended moving the population living close to the spill location to a temporary evacuation site. This was implemented immediately. In total, more than 500 families were evacuated and accommodated in makeshift camps for around 40 days.

The heavy fuel oil was mixed with large quantities of different debris left by the typhoon. Mangroves were affected but only to a minor extent (3 to 4 hectares to the south). Widespread defoliation of mangrove trees was observed however this was due to the violent winds. No clean-up operations were necessary; the mangroves were left to be cleaned up naturally. No mortalities were observed in the fisheries sector, as the oil had been deposited on the upper foreshore which was not colonised by fauna.

One of the main difficulties connected to this spill was the issue of waste management. There was no approved industrial waste treatment centre or no industrial firm capable of treating this oiled waste on the island, nor was there a buried landfill site. Another difficulty was related to the volume of waste and debris generated by the typhoon which had been oiled to varying extents. This waste was recovered and stored in the port of Botongon in Estancia, on the upper beach.

Beyond the port and muncipality of Estancia, a 10 km-stretch of coastline, downstream of the grounding site, was contaminated with light, discontinuous pollution.



PSALM Corp. rapidly set up a fund of around 1.5 million Philippine pesos, i.e. around €28,540, to provide compensation to families who had been evacuated from the spill area, as well as a 500,000-peso fund, i.e. €9,513, to provide compensation to the families affected by the spill. A joint claim was filed by the local residents against the relevant government agencies and KYGT, accused of "negligence" and "inefficient spill response measures".

Last update on 26/06/2018

See also

Sea & Shoreline Technical Newsletter, 2013, n°38

External links

UNEP/OCHA Initial assessment report

Environmental Assessment. Final Report and Recommendations. Haiyan/Yolanda Response. OCHA. . Mainly focuses on humanitarian response actions following the typhoon. 

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