No leak detected… Divers who inspected the hull of the oil tanker shipwrecked the previous day off the southeastern coast of Tunisia, it did not notice any flow of its 750-ton cargo of diesel, Tunisian authorities said.
The plungers who ont pu sur le site grace à une embellie de la météo ont noticed that the ship «a coulé à pres de 20 mètres de fondo, en horizontale et ne présente pas de fissures», according to the Tunisian ministry of l ‘Environment.
The team of divers was “accompanied by the ship’s captain and mechanic, who know the configuration of the ship,” Mohamed Karray, spokesman for the Gabès prosecutor’s office, who opened an investigation into the causes of the accident, told AFP. The accident.
In an area inaccessible to the press.
The oil tanker Xelo, which departed Damietta Harbor in Egypt and headed for Malta, sank on Saturday in Tunisian waters where he had taken refuge the previous afternoon due to bad weather conditions.
The ship, 58 meters long by 9 meters wide, began to take on water in the engine room. The authorities then proceeded to evacuate the seven crew members, before the sinking of the Xelo at dawn.
In a video from the Ministry of the Environment on Sunday, we only see the tip of a mast emerging from the waves. The area, controlled by the army, is inaccessible to the press.
The priority: diesel pumping
According to the Minister of Transport, Rabie el Majidi, during the rescue, the rescuers “made sure to close the holds to prevent diesel leaks and the divers verified that they are intact.”
“The situation is not dangerous, the diagnosis is positive, the ship is stable because fortunately it sank in the sand,” the minister said during a press conference on Sunday at the port of Gabes,with his colleague from the Environment. The priority of the authorities is to pump diesel to avoid contamination of the site. According to Environment Minister Leila Chikhaoui, “it is dangerous but possible”.
It is “very difficult for the divers to identify the exits (cellars) to carry out the pumping”, added Rabie el Majidi, while minimizing the scope of the risks: “750 tons of diesel is nothing” and “diesel evaporates easily in the sun”. Floating anti-pollution barriers were installed in a 200 meter perimeter around the wreckage.
The authorities are “studying the offers received to help them” for pumping, also from abroad, according to the Ministry of Transport. Nearby Italy could, according to the media, provide a ship specializing in maritime accidents.
Questions about the ship’s heading.
Tunisian officials are also interested in the course of the ship, built in 1977 and flying the flag of Equatorial Guinea, and its owners: a Turk and a Libyan, according to the Gabes prosecutor’s office.
The “+ bill of lading +, an important document (on the path of the ship and cargo, editor’s note) was left on the ship by the crew,” said Minister Leila Chikhaoui.
The Ministry of Transport seeks to “verify the exact nature of the activity of the ship and its route during the last weeks”. According to him, the Xelo was stationed from April 4 to 8 in the Tunisian port of Sfax, north of Gabes, “to change crews, refuel and make light repairs, without loading or unloading.”
Local media have recalled the proximity of the Gulf of Gabès to Libya, an important oil-producing country, whose coasts have been the scene of hydrocarbon trafficking in recent years.
While waiting for the cargo to be pumped, the conservation organization WWF has warned of “a new environmental catastrophe” in an area that is a fishing ground for “about 34,000 sailors” and has suffered episodes of pollution, in particular due to the phosphate industries and the presence of an oil pipeline, in recent decades.