An extensive oil spill in the Red Sea may be the result of tank washing from a merchant vessel, says satellite-monitoring environmental firm SkyTruth
SkyTruth, an environmental group with a focus on satellite surveillance, reports a potentially massive oil spill in the Red Sea, allegedly originating from a merchant vessel. The spill, first detected by Sentinel-2 satellite imagery off Sudan’s coast on May 19, 2023, stretches an estimated 250 kilometers.
According to SkyTruth, the oil spread, possibly dispersed over several hours from a moving ship, is likely to equate to a minimum of 120,000 gallons. However, the actual quantity could significantly surpass this figure, contingent upon the surface oil’s thickness.
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The vast scope and considerable volume of the slick indicate that it may have resulted from a petrochemical tanker conducting a tank wash, as opposed to a cargo ship’s bilge discharge. SkyTruth relayed these findings in a Twitter thread.
In an attempt to pinpoint the possible offenders, SkyTruth employed AIS data, spotlighting a Vietnamese-flagged tanker, a Panama-flagged containership, a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier, and a Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier as potential culprits.
SkyTruth’s analysis assumes the vessel guilty of polluting wasn’t “running dark,” implying it was transmitting AIS during the spill. Nonetheless, they haven’t dismissed the possibility of a distinct “dark” vessel being responsible.
The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), particularly MARPOL Annex I, governs shipborne oil discharges and their prevention.