Marooned ship

As reported on CCTV last Friday:

Earlier this week a South Korean ship carrying sulphuric acid sank in waters off Southern China. Environmentalists now warn that a leak of thousands of tonnes of acid could lead to a disaster. 

The South Korean ship which sunk on Tuesday off China's Southern Guangdong province appears to be leaking oil. According to the State Oceanic Administration a marooned oil carrier of about 6 square kilometres was found on Thursday. But the biggest fear isn't the 140 tonnes of fuel left in the downed ship but the 7,000 tonnes of concentrated sulfuric acid it was carrying.

The administration said test results show three of the four observation stations PH levels were below 8 and lower than the PH level tested in November two years ago. Although the levels are not low enough to prove acid has leaked, environmentalists are still worried.

Wu Yi-Xiu, Senior Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace: "7,000 tonnes is a huge amount of acid and if worse comes to worse the sudden release of such a huge amount of acid into the water will create a great heat, erode the sea bed and destroy the biological balance."

Wu Yi-Xiu

The South Korean ship Kenos Athena sank more than 7kms offshore near Shanwei city in Guangdong province. All 18 crew members have been rescued. Marine officials say they have been closely monitoring the situation since the accident. But concerns are rising that might take much longer for authorities to contain the potential hazard.

"If the acid leaks into the sea it will be far more difficult to clean up. In the past when there were oil leaks concentrated human efforts would sometimes speed up the cleaning process. But sulfuric acid is a dangerous chemical and such cleaning will require much more technique, as well as other aids," says Wu Yi-Xiu.

It's not yet clear how much or if any sulphuric acid has leaked into the sea however judging from the amount the ship was carrying, environmentalists worry that the cleaning process will be a long and difficult one.


For e-mail updates on eliminating toxics: subscribe here.