UN environmental agency helps in Pakistani oil spill

28 August 2003

The United Nations environmental agency has sent an emergency response specialist to Pakistan to help authorities there assess damage from the break-up of an oil tanker amid fears that stormy weather could spread spilled oil to ecologically fragile mangrove forests and turtle nesting beaches along the Arabian Sea coast.

Pakistan requested assistance after the MT Tasman Spirit, carrying 67,000 tons of Iranian crude oil, ran aground off the port of Karachi during a monsoon on 27 July and broke up two weeks later, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Klaus Toepfer, said in a news release today.

Pakistani authorities estimate that about 15,000 tons of oil spilled when the ship began breaking up, most of it washing up on popular bathing beaches close to the port. Despite intensive efforts to transfer, disperse and contain and recover the oil, they now fear the effects of stormy weather that has been forecast.

Mr. Toepfer praised the difficult salvage, oil removal and recovery efforts undertaken to date by the Pakistani authorities, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), UNEP’s sister agency, and oil tanker industry representatives.

He said the incident underscored the importance of regional contingency plans and cooperation agreements, which could help mobilize oil-fighting equipment and expertise from within neighbouring countries in times of crisis.

UNEP coordinates 15 Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans designed to help countries protect their common marine and coastal environments.


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