Sinking of Amoco Cadiz: Could such a spill occur again?

ACCELERATION. " Obviously, zero risk does not exist ," warns Christophe Rousseau, deputy director of center for documentation, research and experimentation on accidental pollution (Cedre) ]. The sinking of an oil tanker on the French coast may quite occur in a more or less near future. It is thus obviously a human error which caused on January 6, 2018 the collision in the open sea of ​​China of a Chinese bulk carrier with the Panamanian tanker Sanchi, last black tide in date which does not have for moment caused only occasional pollution on the southernmost islands of Japan. However, the sinking of the Amoco Cadiz caused an acceleration of the measures of prevention of these accidents.

" The approach of securing the transport maritime of hydrocarbons was already well underway before the Amoco, but this disaster undoubtedly accelerated the procedures judge Christophe Rousseau. The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) was adopted by the International Maritime Organization in 1973. This text regulates all types of pollution generated by merchant ships. either in operation or during an accident. Amoco Cadiz precipitated the adoption of annexes to the Convention on the Prevention of Oil Pollution and, in particular, introduced the obligation to build double-hull tankers, a measure which is mandatory for new vessels since 1992. This agreement also organizes the procedures for checking the condition of vessels by certifying bodies. The profession tries to reduce the number of "garbage" boats that are not properly maintained. This surveillance is, however, complicated by the persistence of flags of convenience and the difficulty of equipping ports throughout the world with the facilities necessary for such inspections.

Ready-to-use oil spill control equipment "in case "

The Amoco Cadiz, it is also the emergence of POLMAR plans instituted by circulars of 1978. In case of sinking at sea, the plane POLMAR / MER is triggered by the maritime prefect . To manage the protection and the cleaning of the coasts, the POLMAR / TERRE plan is entrusted to the prefects of the concerned departments. France has 13 storage and intervention centers where pollution control equipment is stored: floating dams, hydrocarbon recovery devices, pumps, generators. The Directorate of Maritime Transport, Ports and Coastal is responsible for ensuring that equipment such as alert procedures remain operational and supports studies and research to improve prevention. On the other hand, the towering wheeler Bourbon Bee based in Brest, is always ready to intervene in case of a problem in the "Ouessant rail".

Breton mayors are still mobilized

RESPONSIBILITY. Finally, the Breton elect also remain the weapon at the foot. Following the Amoco Cadiz, the mayors and general councilors founded the joint union for the protection and conservation of the north-west coast responsible for the recognition of the responsibility of the polluters of the Finistère and Côtes d'Armor coasts. This union was transformed in 2000 into a structure called "Vigipol" which broadens its action to the overall defense of the interests of the coastal communities in the face of the risks of maritime transport. Vigipol is mainly financed by the contributions of these communes.

These different approaches are still evolving and are subject to regular improvements. Thus, the MARPOL convention is enriched each year by new pollution prevention rules. Since September 2017, came into force the regulation on the treatment of ballast water . At the beginning of March, a whole series of measures was adopted including the creation of an International Certificate of Prevention of Oil Pollution "(IOPP certificate), a document given to oil tankers who are equipped with Filtration and oil / water separator designed to reduce water pollution during routine operations. Forty years later, zero risk still does not exist, but the risks have been significantly reduced.

Sinking of the Amoco Cadiz, one of the worst marine pollution in history

The night is dark, the wind blows, the sea rumbles: the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker gorged with 227.000 tons of crude oil sloughs up very close to the Breton coasts , causing one of the worst oil spills in history. It was 40 years ago, March 16, 1978. " When we saw this giant there, all lights on, at the beginning we did not even realize ", remembers Jean-Yves Letard , restaurateur for 32 years in Ploudalmézeau, on which depends the small port Finistère of Portsall face which failed the Amoco. The Liberian tanker, recent but poorly maintained, transports to Rotterdam its cargo of crude oil loaded into the Persian Gulf. As the storm rumbled, he suffered a damage bar. After lengthy negotiations with a German tug and several unsuccessful attempts at towing, the Amoco Cadiz ran aground at 22:00, just two kilometers from the rugged coastline of Portsall.

Aboard the 334 meter long monster, 34 men and a woman. They will all be saved, despite the lack of information available to the authorities. " The only indication we had was 'an oil tanker ran aground off Portsall, go see what you can do' ", tells AFP Michel Le Gall, today The 67-year-old former freighter leader aboard the Navy's Super Hornet helicopter arrived first on the scene. " The sea was black, the boat was not visible ", remembers Yves Dagorn, 71 years old, co-pilot of this mission, explaining having spotted the tanker thanks to the lighthouse of the German tugboat. " We had to find where the crew was, if it was not in the sea, in the oil … ". " The lighthouse illuminated the left wing of the Amoco and there, they were all piled one behind the other ", chained Guy Le Nabat, 70, descended on board from the helicopter. " Everyone wanted to be hoisted first ," he recalls.

Heavy silence and apocalypse

After recovering some of the shipwrecked, the Super Hornet, to the maximum of its capacity, is forced to go lay down his passengers, to the surprise of Guy Le Nabat. " It was the first time that I was left like this, in plan.The diver always leaves with his crew ", explains the former Navy, at the time devoid of any means communication with the aircraft. " Suddenly, it was a silence, but a heavy silence, there were crackles, it was cold and then we slipped everywhere because of the oil spray ," recalls he. The Super Hornet, preceded by a second helicopter, will finally recover the last survivors. " The Amoco Cadiz is a natural disaster, but there were no casualties, we managed to save everyone ," says former pilot Dagorn again. [19659002Graduallyincontactwiththerockstheshipbreaksupanditstanksbegintoempty:intheearlymorningwhilethepungentsmellofoilpenetratesintohomesformilesaroundthevisionisapocalyptic" When we saw the consequences … it was dramatic! " recalls Jean-Yves Letard, thirteen years old at the time. " There was fuel everywhere, the birds fell into the water and never came out again, it was abominable ". Driven by winds and currents, the viscous magma defiles some 360 ​​kilometers of coastline, not to mention the thousands of crude slabs scattered far beyond. Between 19,000 and 37,000 birds die.

Thousands of volunteers to clean up the mess of Amoco Cadiz

For three months, 35,000 soldiers and thousands of volunteers from all over the country are tirelessly cleaning up rocks and soiled beaches, draining thousands of waste, first with simple shovels and buckets or slurry farmers. Less than 10% of the oil will be recovered. The rest will evaporate or disperse in the sea with currents and tides. Heavy wastes are progressively evacuated and treated, but the others, less dense, are stored in holes sometimes covered with simple tarpaulins. The 40-year oil spills off the coast of Brittany have produced hundreds of thousands of tons of waste, tens of thousands of which are still in Finistère and the Côtes d'Armor, in more or less tight pits. Robin Hood Association. To the environmental disaster are added the economic consequences of the disaster: 1,300 fishermen stay on land for whole weeks and nearly 7,000 tons of oysters are destroyed. Harvests of seaweed and shellfish are severely affected, as is the tourist season.

The anger of the Britons is strong. Quickly, 90 elected members, led by the former senator-mayor of Ploudalmézeau who died in 2014, Alphonse Arzel, unite in a mixed union, which later became Vigipol and has since been responsible for defending the interests of local authorities in the face of risks arising from maritime transport. At the time, the idea was to attack US justice, despite the reluctance of the French government, the Standard Oil Of Indiana, world oil giant and owner of the Amoco. " It was a little naive, as we said, when we see who we were ," recalls Joseph Patinec, former first deputy Ploudalmézeau. " One of the great victories is that they went hand in hand, and without failing to the end ", he considers.

After 14 years of struggle, the American company is recognized only responsible and must pay the equivalent of 35 million euros to the Breton municipalities and 160 million to the state, which eventually join the action of the mixed union: the principle "polluter pays" is finally applied. The disaster will lead to the gradual introduction of measures to reduce the risk of accidents and to acquire better weapons against the pollution s: a new Polmar plan is adopted, a navigation rail is created off Ouessant, a powerful tug is permanently assigned to assist the ships circulating in this rail, etc. Could the disaster happen again? " No, the tragedy of the Amoco will not be repeated in 2018 ," said AFP the maritime prefect of the Atlantic, Admiral Emmanuel de Oliveira, noting that one " could certainly improve the safety of large vessels ", while the world's shipping traffic continues to increase.

Ferry Sinking in the Philippines, SAR Team Seeks to Save 200 Passengers and Crew

A number of Philippine officials say coast guards and fishermen are trying to rescue more than 200 ferry victims who sank in the northeast of the country.

Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo said rescue efforts were carried out on Thursday 21/12) after Mercraft 3, an inter-island passenger ferry, sank between the city of Infanta in Quezon Province and Polillo Island. Officials say the ship may have sunk after being hit repeatedly by strong waves.

Balillo said Coast Guard troops are coordinating with the military for the possibility of deploying air force and naval helicopters to help the rescue effort. [ab/lt]