800m stretch of Changi Beach temporarily closed due to oil spill in Johor

Today Online 5 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — An 800m stretch of Changi Beach has been closed until further notice due to the oil spill following the collision of two container ships in Johor waters on Tuesday (Jan 3), the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Thursday.

The closure is to help facilitate the clean-up of the affected area, NEA said, and advised the public to avoid the area.

Some 300 tonnes of oil had gushed into the waters off Singapore on Tuesday night after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor.

The spill affected three coastal fish farms in the Eastern Johor Straits, with one farm reporting some fish deaths of about 100 to 200kg, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

Malaysian authorities expect that the clean up in Johor waters will take about a week, depending on weather and water currents.

Among the affected shores in Singapore include Noordin beach at Pulau Ubin, Punggol beach and Pasir Ris beach.

Cleaning operations are currently ongoing at a 100m stretch at Noordin beach at Pulau Ubin, while cleaning operations at Pasir Ris beach and Punggol beach have been completed as of Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday evening, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said that a total of 17 vessels and 222 personnel have been deployed for the clean-up operations. "Progress of the clean-up is being made along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin (OBS Jetty) and Nenas Channel," the MPA said in a statement.

"Some patches of oil were spotted off CAFHI Jetty and also along the shorelines of Pasir Ris Beach, Changi Point Ferry Terminal, Changi Sailing Club and Changi Beach in the early hours of the morning. Contractors were deployed to clean up the affected shorelines. Oil spill response vessels as well as containment booms and spill recovery equipment such as harbour busters and skimmers have also been deployed at the affected areas," the MPA added, saying that port operations remain unaffected.

A National Parks Board (NParks) spokesperson said on Wednesday that the agency had to set up oil-absorbent booms to protect the mangroves and mudflats along the north-eastern coasts of Pulau Ubin, including Chek Jawa Wetland, as the tide was expected to move east.

In addition, booms have also been set up to protect the mangroves at Coney Island Park and Pasir Ris Park, the NParks spokesperson said.

The AVA has alerted coastal fish farmers in the area of the spill and advised them to stop feeding their fish and to deploy canvas skirting to prevent oil from contaminating fish stocks. NEA said it is closely monitoring the quality of the seawater in the affected areas and has also advised the public to exercise caution when visiting beaches, including those that have already been cleaned up.

Members of the public who spot any oil patches in the waters or coastline of Singapore can contact MPA’s 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2488/9.

The MPA will continue to monitor the situation.


Part of Changi Beach temporarily closed due to oil spill
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: An 800m stretch of Changi Beach is closed to the public until further notice, after an oil spill from Tuesday's collision between two container vessels off Johor reached its shores.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) confirmed on Thursday (Jan 5) that clean-up at the beach is underway, adding that efforts are also ongoing at a 100m stretch of Noordin Beach at Pulau Ubin.

Pasir Ris Beach and Punggol Beach were also affected but cleaning operations there have been completed, said NEA.

A total of 17 vessels and 222 personnel have been deployed to contain the oil spill, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in an update on Thursday. It added that progress has been made in cleaning up the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin and Nenas Channel.

When Channel NewsAsia visited Changi Beach on Thursday afternoon, there was an unmistakable smell of oil in the air. Plastic bags containing oily black sand were seen lining the beach, stretching all the way to the banks of Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Some patches of oil were also spotted off Changi Sailing Club and CAFHI Jetty, said MPA.

At least a hundred workers were involved in the clean-up along Changi Beach, scooping sand into the plastic bags. A supervisor said his workers started cleaning the beach before sunrise and they were into the second round of cleaning.

Another source, who declined to be identified, said workers will clean the stretch of the beach for a third time when the tide is low and has receded, leaving more oil on the beach. He said the clean-up is expected to take "a few days" but that the worst is over.

Workers were seen putting up signs along the beach to warn members of the public that the water is contaminated and that the beach is closed.

At Bistro@Changi restaurant, business has dropped by about 30 per cent since last night and during lunch service on Thursday, according to service staff Mr Hadyul Adzim who also complained of a headache after arriving this morning.

"The thick smell of oil was worse last night and customers who wanted to have dinner requested to switch tables farther from the beach area," he said.

Channel NewsAsia also understands that authorities are combing places such as Pulau Ubin and Coney Island, using aerial search methods to check for oil patches.

At Changi Point Ferry Terminal, where ferries depart for Pulau Ubin, workers had placed oil booms and oil absorbent pads into the water. The oil boom collects the oil and prevents it from contaminating the other side. Oil absorbent pads that look like cotton patches absorb and allow the oil to coagulate in one area, making it easier for workers to collect the oil from the water.

In a statement, NEA said: "Members of the public are advised to exercise caution when visiting these beaches and to avoid the affected stretches where cleaning operations are still ongoing. NEA is also closely monitoring the quality of the seawater."

So far, three coastal fish farms in the Eastern Johor Straits have been affected by the oil spill, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). One farm reported a loss of about 100 to 200kg of fish.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore was notified of the collision involving a Singapore-registered container vessel and a Gibraltar-registered container vessel, at about 11.50pm on Tuesday. The authority is investigating the cause of the collision, which resulted in about 300 tonnes of oil spilled in the surrounding waters. Port operations remain unaffected.

Malaysian authorities, meanwhile, anticipate that it would take a week to clean up the spill in the eastern part of the Johor Strait near Pasir Gudang Port.

In a statement on Thursday, the Johor Port Authority said how quickly the clean-up job could be done is dependent on the weather and water currents. It added that swift action by Malaysia and Singapore authorities prevented the spill from spreading to a wider area.

- CNA/dl


Major clean-up after oil spill spreads to Singapore beaches
Part of Changi Beach closed after Singapore is hit by worst oil spill since 2010
Kimberly Lim The New Paper 6 Jan 17;

The oil spill in the Johor Strait on Tuesday night has sparked a massive clean-up after the tar-like slick reached the north-eastern coast of Singapore.

A collision between two container vessels near Pasir Gudang Port in Johor had damaged one of their bunker tanks and caused the spillage of 300 tonnes of oil.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said in a statement yesterday that 17 vessels and 222 personnel had been deployed for the clean-up.

Patches of oil could be seen off Cafhi Jetty and the shorelines of Pasir Ris Beach, Punggol Beach and Changi Beach, which seemed to be the worst hit.

The offshore islands of Pulau Ubin and Coney Island were also affected.

Cleaning along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin and Nenas Channel is in progress.

Yesterday morning, National Environment Agency (NEA) contractors were seen bringing up oil absorbents stained with oil onto a vessel, while workers packed oil-stained sand into trash bags, The Straits Times reported online.

Equipment to skim oil from the water surface and prevent it from spreading was also deployed at the affected areas.

Workers were seen putting up sign boards advising people to stay away from the contaminated waters and that the beach was closed.

NEA said that an affected 800m stretch of Changi Beach had been closed to beachgoers until further notice.

A 100m stretch at Noordin Beach at Pulau Ubin is also being cleaned. Cleaning at Punggol Beach and Pasir Ris Beach was completed yesterday afternoon.

"Members of the public are advised to exercise caution when visiting these beaches and to avoid the affected stretches where cleaning operations are still ongoing," said NEA.

Among those affected was Mr Colin Koh, 53, director at Asian Detours, an outdoor adventure company that is usually bustling with kayakers on weekends.

He told The New Paper: "The weekend is usually our peak period and we can have up to six groups, totalling 20 to 40 people. But we have postponed all the tours for the remainder of this week."

After Mr Koh checked the spill yesterday to find out the extent of the damage, he described it as one of the worst spills he had seen in his 31 years.

"I had never seen a spill this bad. There was a strong chemical stench that made me feel dizzy," he said.

Worried about how long the clean-up would take, Mr Koh said that even a 10 per cent drop in business would be a huge blow because Asian Detours is not a big company.

"I usually lead kayaking expeditions three times a week. It is my passion, lifeblood and my rice bowl," he said.

"It is the same for my employees and all the expedition leaders out there."

This is the first major oil spill to affect Singapore since 2010, when 2,500 tonnes of crude oil leaked into the Singapore Strait south of the mainland, after a ship collision.


Authorities embark on clean-up along Singapore coastlines after oil spill
ALFRED CHUA Today Online 6 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — A day after two ships collided in Johor waters, oil patches were found along coastlines in the north-eastern part of Singapore, while an 800m stretch of Changi Beach was closed on Thursday (Jan 5) to clean up the oil spill.

A second fish farm in the affected area also reported fish deaths from the spill, although the authorities said most farms were spared and impact on supply was “minimal”. Nonetheless, some farms have been told to suspend sales, until food safety tests are completed.

Apart from Changi Beach, oil patches were also found along the shorelines of Noordin beach at Pulau Ubin, and the beaches at Punggol and Pasir Ris, said the National Environmental Agency (NEA). They were also found off the Cafhi jetty, also at Changi Beach and along the shorelines of Changi Point Ferry Terminal, as well as Changi Sailing Club, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Thursday evening.

About 300 tonnes of oil gushed into the waters off Singapore on Tuesday night after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor.

When TODAY visited Changi Beach on Thursday afternoon, cleaners were seen clearing up oil-coated sand near Changi jetty, and placing oil-absorbent pads into the water. They had been working there since morning.

There was a distinct stench of oil in the air and a handful of beachgoers could be seen in the area.

Not far from the jetty, bag after bag of sand coated with oil was heaped along the seashore.

The NEA has advised the public to exercise caution when visiting the affected beaches and to avoid the stretches where cleaning work is being carried out.

Clean-up work aside, the authorities on Thursday also stepped up their efforts to contain the oil spill. The MPA increased the number of vessels deployed to clear up the oil patches to 17, from nine the previous day. Its spokesperson said 222 personnel were involved in the clean-up efforts.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which deployed oil-absorbent booms along Pulau Ubin’s north-eastern coast, Pasir Ris Park and Coney Island Park on Wednesday to protect mudflats and mangrove areas, said “the booms have kept the oil out of the biodiversity sensitive sites”.

“We will continue to monitor the impact of the oil spill on marine life and share more details when this is ready,” it added.

Meanwhile, fish farmers were on Thursday counting the cost of the damage arising from the oil spill, while the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said more farms in the East Johor Strait have found oil on their nets and premises, due to tide movement.

Two farms have reported fish deaths, amounting to 100 to 250kg across both farms. The AVA said it has issued notices to suspend sales to three farms, and more will be issued if more farms become affected.

When TODAY visited Mr Timothy Ng from 2 Jays Pte Ltd at his farm off the north-western coast of Pulau Ubin, cleaning personnel could be seen working to remove swathes of black oil.

This was “the largest such incident” to hit his 12-year-old farm, which is among those hit with a suspension. A visibly-disappointed Mr Ng said he could not do much with his fish stock now, except to put aerators into the fish cages to pump in fresh air.

“We cannot feed any fish now, since the food will be contaminated, so for now, we will just have to wait and see,” said Mr Ng, adding that “no more than 10kg” of fish had already died due to the oil spill.

His farm has around 10 tonnes of fish and seafood, and four employees.

Mr Tan Choon Teck, from FC57E Fish Farm, said his entire 3ha farm was covered with oil and cleaning-up works were in progress.

He said in Mandarin: “I’m worried if my fish would die from a lack of fresh air (due to the thick layer of oil). I’m worried also because we cannot feed them,” he said, adding that the AVA had taken a few of his fish for tests.


Big cleanup of N-E coast after oil spill
Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Jan 17;

More than 200 personnel have been involved in a major cleanup of Singapore's north-eastern coast, where the authorities found beaches covered with a black, tar-like substance after an oil spill in Johor.

The beaches at Changi, Punggol and Pasir Ris were all affected by the oil spill, which was caused by the collision of two vessels near Pasir Gudang Port. Pulau Ubin and Coney Island - two of Singapore's offshore islands - were also hit.

A mother with her two children picking up seashells yesterday on Changi beach, which was lined with bags filled with oil-stained sand.Photo: The Straits Times
Meanwhile, the authorities have suspended sales from three affected fish farms, and will do so for newly affected farms.

The suspension will be in place until food safety evaluations are complete, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said last night.

Cleanups at Pasir Ris and Punggol beaches were completed by yesterday afternoon. Changi seemed to be the worst hit, with an 800m stretch there closed temporarily to expedite operations, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Read also: Part of Changi Beach closed for clean-up operation following oil spill

When The Straits Times team visited the area at about 10am yesterday, there was a strong smell of petroleum. The sand was stained with a black substance, and the water had an oily sheen.

NEA contractors were seen bringing up oil absorbents - which look like large swathes of cotton wool - stained with oil onto a vessel, while workers packed oil-stained sand into trash bags. Workers were also seen putting up signboards advising people to stay away from the contaminated water.

An NEA spokesman said it is also closely monitoring the quality of the seawater.

On Pulau Ubin, cleanup operations were also carried out on a 100m stretch of Noordin beach, which has been closed to the public since 2013 for work to restore the shoreline.

Read also: Oil patches spotted off Pulau Ubin after 2 container vessels collide near Johor

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, which is coordinating the containment and cleanup efforts, deployed 17 vessels to clean up the surrounding waters.

Equipment to skim oil from the surface of the water and prevent further spread was also deployed at the affected areas.

The collision between the two container vessels - Wan Hai 301 and APL Denver - occurred in the eastern part of the Johor Strait near Pasir Gudang Port on Tuesday night. The 50km-long Johor Strait separates Singapore from Malaysia, and is only 2km wide at its broadest.

The incident occurred close to midnight and left 300 tonnes of oil spillage as a result of damage to one of the vessel's bunker tanks.

This is the most recent major oil spill to affect Singapore since 2010, when a collision caused 2,500 tonnes of crude oil to leak into the Singapore Strait, south of the mainland.

The current oil spill, especially since it happened so close to the Chinese New Year on Jan 28, is worrying fish farmers.

There are about 60 farms located in the East Johor Strait area, most of which supply fish to Singapore. Two farms have reported fish deaths, which amounted to about 150kg to 250kg across both farms, according to the AVA .

However, as most of the farms did not report fish mortality, "there is minimal impact to supply", it said.

Mr Timothy Ng, operations manager of 2 Jays fish farm in the area, said this was the first time it had been hit by an oil spill this severe.

He has not yet seen any dead fish floating up to the surface, but he said the AVA yesterday asked his farm to stop sales while tests are ongoing. "We also have to see if our equipment, such as cages, can be reused after the oil spill," he added.

Marine biologist Toh Tai Chong said oil spills can tip the ecological balance if a large enough wild fish population is affected.

"For instance, if herbivorous fish are killed, there will be less grazing of algae in these habitats.

"Without effective control of the algae population, marine algae can proliferate quickly and dominate these habitats," added Dr Toh. In the long run, this could reduce the fish population in those habitats.

Affected areas rich in biodiversity

There may be no colourful coral reefs fringing Singapore's northern coast, but it still thrives with underwater life.

Sea turtles and otters, for example, have been spotted at Changi beach and Pulau Ubin - areas affected by an oil spill that the authorities were working to clean up yesterday.

Mr Stephen Beng, chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore)'s marine conservation group, told The Straits Times that such incidents devastate the marine environment.

"Oil destroys the insulating ability of fur- bearing mammals like our otters, and the water repellency of birds... Spilt oil also affects the eyes, skin and lungs of sea turtles and dolphins, but they are more vulnerable to chemical exposure from what they eat in their contaminated habitat," he said.

Besides animals, oil spills also affect trees. Mangroves, in particular, breathe through pores in their trunks and stilt roots, which can get clogged by oil.

Pulau Ubin - an island off the north-eastern coast of mainland Singapore - is home to 20 per cent of all mangroves that can be found in the country.

These habitats, with their iconic stilt-root trees, have also been affected.

At Pulau Ubin yesterday, The Straits Times found some leaves, saplings and roots of mangroves covered in the black, tar-like substance.

In response to queries, the National Parks Board (NParks) said it had deployed oil- absorbent booms along Pulau Ubin's north-eastern coast, Pasir Ris Park and Coney Island Park on Wednesday to protect the mudflats and mangrove areas.

"Our observation is that the booms have kept the oil out of biodiversity-sensitive sites. NParks is working with the relevant agencies on cleanup efforts," said an NParks spokesman, adding that the board is monitoring the impact of the oil spill on marine life.

Ms Ria Tan, who runs the Wildsingapore.com nature website, said: "I am glad NParks took swift action to place booms to protect some areas rich in biodiversity."

Fish farms reeling from impact of oil spill off Johor
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: At a fish farm north of Pulau Ubin, workers panicked on Wednesday (Jan 4) when they saw what was meant to be their Chinese New Year harvest turn belly-up in the water.

The farm, owned by Gills N Claws, told Channel NewsAsia it lost about 1,000 fish, after a nearby vessel collision the day before saw about 300 tonnes of oil spill into the sea. Gills N Claws said the oil seeped into its nets containing fish such as red snappers, pearl groupers and silver pomfret.

"Our workers scrambled to put up canvasses outside the floating platforms provided by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA)," said Gills N Claws' head of operations, Winston Siv Raj. "But 70 per cent of the fish meant to be sold in time for Chinese New Year have died."

The farm also breeds crabs and lobsters. These too were found coated in engine oil, as were the green mussels grown as food for the lobsters. Farm manager Steven Wong lifted ropes on which the mussels were growing, only to find them caked with oily sludge.

When Channel NewsAsia arrived at the farm, staff from AVA and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) were on the scene, with AVA officials packing a red snapper and some mussels for tests at their laboratory.

Mr Raj said estimates the damage could run up to S$700,000, as the company also needs to change all its fish nets and floats, as well as supporting anchor points and connecting ropes that were ruined by the oil.

"This does not include the fish and lobsters that survived. The figures could change drastically if the AVA finds that the lobsters and fish taken for lab tests are unfit for consumption," he said.

Other fish farms are still trying to assess their losses. At a farm owned by 2 Jays, the surface of the water surrounded by netting was coated with a thick layer of black oil and the air smelled of diesel.

Workers were throwing large cloth pads into the water in a bid to soak up the oil, but beyond that, they were unable to do much.

Its operations manager Timothy Ng said his workers could not check their fish stocks without lifting the nets. However if they did, they would risk killing more fish, as the surviving fish could choke on the oil floating on top if they came near the surface, he said. To prevent fish from suffocating in this fashion, workers were also instructed not to feed them.

The co-owner of Farm 85 Aquaculture, Andrew Sim, meantime, was at a loss for words, gazing out at his oil-coated fish pens. “I don’t know what to do … It's too much already."

SALE OF FISH AT 3 FARMS SUSPENDED

AVA had said on Wednesday that two farms saw fish deaths due to the oil spill and that up to 200kg of fish had died.

On Thursday, it said more farms were found to have tainted nets and structures, compared to the day before due to tidal movement. It has issued oil absorbent pads and canvas to 22 farmers closest to the oil spill site to help protect their fish stock.

Aside from the two farms however, "most of the farms in the same area did not report fish mortality,” said Dr Leong Hon Keong, group director of AVA’s Technology and Industry Development Group. "There is minimal impact to supply. Nevertheless, AVA will continue to monitor the situation and assist the fish farmers, including assisting in clean-up efforts."

As a precautionary measure, AVA has collected fish samples for food safety tests and will continue to do so, it said. The authority also issued orders to three farms to suspend sales of fish until food safety evaluations are complete.

A total of 17 vessels and more than 220 personnel have been mobilised for a massive clean-up in the wake of the oil spill, MPA said. Changi Beach was also partially closed on Wednesday as a safety precaution.

Additional reporting by Vanessa Lim.

- CNA/mo

Oil spill clean-up in Johor expected to take a week
The Star 5 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: Authorities expect it will take a week to clean up the oil that spilled following Tuesday's collision of two container vessels in the eastern part of the Johor Strait near Pasir Gudang Port.

The Johor Port Authority (LPJ), in a statement Thursday, said how quickly the clean-up could be done was dependent on the weather and the water currents.

It said the oil spill did not affect the people in the area, including fishermen.

"The spill also has not affected private jetties as well as the Sultan Iskandar Power Station," it added.

LPJ said the port was operating as usual but vessels could experience delay when berthing at the Container Terminal due to work to control the oil spill.

Singapore-registered MT Wan Hai 301 collided into Gilbraltar-registered MT APL Denver, which was anchored at the port at about 11pm on Tuesday.

LPJ said quick action by Johor Port Bhd, with the cooperation of agencies in the Pasir Gudang Oil Spill Task Force as well as LPJ, Department of Environment, South Region Marine Department and the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, managed to prevent the spill from spreading over a wide area.

It said Singapore authorities also took swift action to check the spill in the republic's waters.

"The collision caused oil to spill from MT APL Denver, which had the capacity to carry 300 tonnes of marine fuel oil," it said.

No one was injured in the incident. - Bernama


UPDATE at 1700 hrs: Collision of Container Vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER
MPA media release 5 Jan 17;

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) continues to coordinate the containment and clean-up efforts of the oil spillage in Singapore’s waters following the collision of container vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER. As of 5 January 2016, a total of 17 vessels and 222 personnel have been deployed. Progress of the clean-up is being made along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin (OBS Jetty) and Nenas Channel.

Some patches of oil were spotted off CAFHI Jetty and also along the shorelines of Pasir Ris Beach, Changi Point Ferry Terminal, Changi Sailing Club and Changi Beach in the early hours of the morning. Contractors were deployed to clean up the affected shorelines. Oil spill response vessels as well as containment booms and spill recovery equipment such as harbour busters and skimmers have also been deployed at the affected areas.

Members of the public who spot any oil patches in our waters or coastline can contact MPA’s 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325-2488/9.

Port operations remain unaffected and MPA will continue to monitor the situation.

For media queries, please email Media_Enquiries@mpa.gov.sg or call 83662293.


UPDATE 1952hrs: Collision of Container Vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER
MPA Media Release 5 Jan 17;

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)’s aerial surveillance had earlier spotted two patches of oil concentrated along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin (OBS Jetty) and Nenas Channel. At the time of this update, no new sightings of oil has been reported.

MPA and its contractors have deployed a total of nine vessels to respond to the oil patches at OBS Jetty and Nenas Channel. Two Skimmers and booms have been placed off OBS Jetty and Nenas Channel to contain the oil patches.

Since the time of the collision, MPA has been working closely with NParks and AVA to manage the incident.

MPA as a flag State will investigate the cause of the collision between Singapore-registered container vessel WAN HAI 301 and a Gibraltar-registered container vessel APL DENVER off Pasir Gudang Port, Johor Malaysia.

Both APL DENVER and WAN HAI 301 are currently berthed at Pasir Gudang Port and are in stable condition.

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