A bulk carrier ship has deliberately dumped about 1,000 tonnes of oil into the sea off the coast of the Solomon Islands, government authorities have alleged.
The Panama-flagged MV Quebec, which was in the Solomons carrying a logging shipment for a Chinese company, is accused of discharging heavy fuel oil into Graciosa Bay in Temotu province in late January.
The premier of Temotu, Clay Forau, said he believed ships regularly deliberately polluted Solomons Islands waters.
“Its obvious these ships go around breaking our laws on sea pollution all the time,” Forau told the Guardian. “The only difference is they got caught this time.”
Forau said the provincial government was working on two cases, including a seven-year-old shipwreck, the MV Tremax, which foundered in waters just outside the government’s headquarters at Lata, and is still leaking oil.
“We want it removed immediately, the owners of the ship should be held responsible,” he said.
The director of the Solomon Island Maritime Authority, Thierry Nervale, told state media an initial assessment of the MV Quebec spill indicated about 1,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil had been discharged, and that the government would pursue legal action against the vessel’s owners.
“For us, it is clear that this is deliberate pollution of our seas. It’s not accidental,” Nervale said.
He said the master of the ship would be charged according to Solomon Islands law.
Laid down in 1991 in Japan, the Quebec has undergone a number of name changes during a 30-year career. Publicly available shipping data lists its current operator as Greatsources Shipping in Hong Kong. The Guardian has sought comment from the company.
Nervale said the oil spill had been contained to within one kilometre, but had polluted the beach, and maritime officials were beginning the clean-up.
Comparisons have already been drawn with a 2019 disaster, when the bulk carrier MV Solomon Trader, ran aground off Rennell island – part of which is a Unesco world heritage site – spilling oil onto an ecologically sensitive reef.
“In the national plan we have three levels of pollution, the oil spill disaster in Rennell [island in February 2019] is … at level three and the MV Quebec oil spill is confirmed to be at level two. This allows us to manage it internally, we don’t need assistance from the region or the international community,” he said.