An Indian tanker that ran aground off the coast of Saudi Arabia and spilled more than 1.3 million gallons of crude oil into the Red Sea has been refloated and towed away for repairs, shipping sources said.
Maritime executives in the Saudi port of Jeddah said Friday the 276,744-ton supertanker Kanchenjunga leaked the crude into the sea after it ran aground on a reef Thursday about six nautical miles from the Yenbu terminal near Jeddah.The slick was creeping toward the beaches of Jeddah Saturday, sources said.
They said the tanker had been anchored near the bustling port for repairs. "The tanker has been refloated, the oil spillage has been contained and it's at a safe anchorage," the executives said.
A Saudi Arabian environmental protection group said Saturday it will sue the owners of the tanker for damages.
"We are filing a claim against the owners of the tanker for damages caused by the oil slick and the expense of cleaning up the mess," a spokesman for the Jeddah-based official Meteorological and Environmental Protection Administration told United Press International.
Maritime executives in Jeddah said the tanker, owned by the state-run Shipping Corp. of India, was carrying a full load of 42 million gallons of crude oil when it ran aground early Thursday.
An executive said the vessel was badly holed in several places on the starboard side and began leaking heavily into the sea, creating "a giant slick out there."
The shipping sources said high winds were pushing the oil slick toward Jeddah."The high winds and choppy seas were an advantage because they started breaking up the oil," one source told UPI. "But the bad news is the winds are pushing the slick toward the beaches, where it can cause big damage to marine life."
The shipping insurance firm Lloyd's of London confirmed the supertanker leaked about 5,000 tons of oil, or more than 1.3 million gallons.
"Our agent in Jeddah has reported a leak of some 5,000 tons," a Lloyd's spokesman told UPI. Lloyd's insures most vessels in the Persian Gulf.
Saudi Arabia's state-run news media did not carry reports of the tanker having run aground or of the oil spill, and Saudi officials declined to comment on the accident.
The Saudi silence led to speculation among shipping sources in the neighboring emirate of Dubai that the Indian supertanker may have struck a mine rather than a reef.
U.S. Navy officials have estimated that the gulf still has about 200 Iranian and Iraqi mines eight months after the start of a cease-fire in the two nations' eight-year war.
A Liberian-flagged tanker sustained slight damage in the southern gulf Wednesday from an explosion that may have been caused by a floating mine. The Greek-owned 256,387-ton Tropical Lion was damaged on its starboard side about 50 nautical miles from the United Arab Emirates' Arzanah oil field.