Oil leak threatens major reef


A grounded cargo ship in the Solomon Islands is leaking metric tons of oil near the largest coral atoll in the world, threatening a major ecological crisis.

The Solomon Trader was carrying more than 700 metric tons of heavy fuel oil when it ran aground in in Kangava Bay at Rennell Island, said the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Tuesday. About 100 metric tons have spilled so far, already spreading five to six kilometers and washing up on shore according to DFAT.

“There are dead fish and crabs and all that,” Loti Yates, the director of the Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office, told Radio NZ. “The fumes that is coming out from the oil is also affecting communities and I just had a report it’s also impacting on the chicken and birds.”

The southern third of Kangava Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, encompassing a coral atoll treasured in the South Pacific. Australian officials are working with the Solomon Islands in containing the environmental damage.

The ship’s owner, King Trader Ltd., and insurer, Korea Protection and Indemnity Club, offered their “sincere apology” to the people of the Solomon Islands in a statement on Tuesday. The companies are now working on transferring the remaining oil off of the ship, deploying oil spill booms, and cleaning along the shoreline, the statement said.

Despite the international weight of this story, I don’t think that domestic news media outlets devoted as much attention to it as it deserved. If the event took place near a location that receives more U.S. tourists, coverage would’ve been much heavier and reporters would have had included more sources like the citizens directly impacted and experts who could provide insight on the ecological impact the leak is expected to have.