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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Black Oil Spill in Kerch Strait (Last Updated Nov. 18)

In the early hours of Sunday, the Russian tanker Volgoneft-139, carrying 4,000 tons of black oil, fell apart due to storm damage, releasing up to 1,300 tons of black oil into the Kerch Strait. (Read the full story.)

Crew members remain on board, waiting to be rescued by helicopters. Despite efforts to contain the spill, there are concerns that the contamination will continue. Black oil from the tanker has already reached the Ukrainian shore. (More coverage in Ukrainian from Ukrayinska Pravda.)

Ukrainian and Russian authorities are working jointly to combat one of the worst environmental disasters in the area.

According to latest reports, the length of the black oil spill has reached 12 km (7.46 miles) long.

Another vessel has spilled some 6,800 tons of sulfur into the Kerch Strait. Large-scale wildlife losses are reported. One report puts the toll at 30,000 sea birds. It is estimated that as many are suffering.

A total of four vessels have sunk due to stormy weather. Two more vessels carrying 8,000 tons of oil have run aground. 14 people are dead and 10 more are missing.

FRIDAY, NOV. 16 — Having just flipped on the Svoboda Slova talk show, I have the following update:

Ukrainian Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovsky says that, in the wake of the storm, the Kerch Port Authority had requested that all vessels exit the Kerch Strait immediately. The vessels on the Russian side of the Kerch Strait, controlled by the Kavkaz Port Authority, disregarded that request and remained in the danger zone.

Plans are under consideration to build a protective dam to prevent black oil from escaping into the Sea of Azov. The dam's workings, however, may result in the repeat flooding of Tuzla Island, which belongs to Ukraine.

For a better idea of what happened in the Kerch Strait, visit UNIAN.

Ukrainian investigators believe that smuggling may have played a role in the unusually high concentration of ships in the Kerch Strait. Sergey Boiko, a member of the Russian investigative panel, has spoken of an error of judgment on the part of the Kavkaz and Rostov Port Authorities and the sunk ships' captains.

So far, Moscow has refused to accept blame for the spill. Russian experts consider Ukraine's chances of winning cleanup compensation unlikely.

20 people are still missing. A total of five vessels sank during the storm; eight more ran aground.

The contaminated area on Tuzla Island stretches along the coastline for 6 km (3.73 miles), and extends 300 m (328 yrd) into the island.


Photos courtesy of AFP, Reuters


Anonymous said...

I am not surprised. Russian government has shown total disregard for environment. They designated Novaya Zemlya archipelago for nuclear weapon testing (50 megaton Tsar Bomba was tested there); they were regularly throwing spent submarine nuclear reactors into the arctic; they created landfil out of Novaya Zemlya by throwing highly dangerous radio-active barrels of nuclear chemicals, etc. Therefore I am not surprised that we are witnessing this horrible environmental catastrophy. Russia is the most primitive country in the world, and they simply don't care about environment, human rights, democracy, or any of these Western values...

Taras said...

That’s true. The Soviet Union, and now Russia, have some of the world’s most advanced weapon technologies and some of the world’s most primitive infrastructures and safety cultures.

Given this dangerous mix, Russia has often hurt others and herself, too. As a person who lives 120 km from Chornobyl, I know how true that is.

I also know that Milosevic’s Serbia imitated Russia’s imperialist ways. I know that Moscow provided Belgrade butchers with political and military support.

This comes as no surprise, since the neo-Soviet Kremlin has vehemently denied the Holodomor. Moreover, at a time of skyrocketing energy prices, some Western countries refuse to recognize the Holodomor as genocide for fear of compromising relations with Russia.

You have a very important story to tell the world! The world was sitting idly as thousands of your fellow Bosnians were raped and massacred by Milosevic’s troops. We must not let this happen again.

Buffalo Expat said...

I was actually in Chisinau when this happened, and the weather was really nice on Sunday so I really had no idea about the spill until I opened my email. Sadly (and not surprisingly) enough, the NY Times article hardly mentions the impact to Ukraine.

Taras said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and for writing, Elise!

The impact of this disaster will be felt by both Ukraine and Russia. But you made a highly accurate observation. Ukraine still largely remains in the shadow of Russia. And so does Moldova.

In fact, that shadow often has grotesque proportions.

Anonymous said...

It's no doubt-the disaster in Kerch strait is a strict and sad example of beliving in traditional russian "Avos'" - yes, captains of those 5 russian vessels that sanked there could move away from the farvater after receiving the forecast prediction... But I DO can't accept the whole idea of yours'about global russian "undemocratical" policy,it's forgetting about "human rights", "western values"...Does it really mean that "Russia is the most primitive country in the world"??? What about thinking of any other aspects and parameters for making the judgement about the country? Why just only these two comparisons "democratic"/"undemocratic"? Show me the etalon of democracy!
...It's not the place to have argues there, and it's just your opinion, but how these things are connected: The European process with Milosevic, holodomor, Moscow (!!!) and environmental problems of a country? Or it's the same action of "The impire of Evil?"
About Ukraine: in fact, it's southern and eastern parts - "in shadow". However, the last elections there shew another orientation of it's government... "orange revolution" just bringing up it's fruits...

Anonymous said...

Just in addition, to the previous anonumous author, I'd like to add that primitiveness of the culture, nation and country as such is probably measured in different terms. To my mind, it is quite 'primitive' to blame someone for misdoing smth, while ignoring own problems and faults. People tend to forget their own mistakes. God bless Ukraine and Balkans, if there was nothing bad in your nations' history, nothing you'd be ashamed now, besides Soviet peiod.

Taras said...

We all know that even “model democracies” like the U.S. have their faults.

However, there is a connection between democracy, social responsibility, and environmental friendliness. In a democracy, environmental protection groups can seek and win legal remedies that ensure the “polluter pays” principle. Take the case of Exxon Valdez.

Not so in Russia. In Russia, the polluter doesn’t pay. In Russia, the polluter prospers. The same principle still holds in Ukraine. It’s our job to put that principle out of business by holding free and fair elections.

I didn’t say Russia is the most primitive country in the world. I merely elaborated on what my reader was trying to say — emotionally. Russia has embraced “managed democracy,” a policy that does a disservice to the people of Russia and to their neighbors.

The reincarnation of the Soviet Union via crony capitalism and petropolitics will be no friend of the environment. As a Ukrainian, I want my neighbor to have a better future than that.

Anonymous said...

Well, perhaps, my previous post, which I was trying to publish was not enough polite for the editor, but I'll try to catch the point again. As a Russian, moreover dealing with environmental matters I'm, of course, ashamed of what has actually happened at the Kerch Strait and not only about this particular incident. But let me remind you, that in Exxon case it was not an easy way to get those compensation and the respective Fund still did not settle all the bills. In Kerch-Kavkaz case it is only one week have passed and you consider this enough to claim Polluter Prosperity Principle?

Taras said...

Thank you for clarifying your point and for your goodwill!

Of course, it’s too early to judge the outcome. Still, to be honest, I remain skeptical that either Russia or Ukraine will hold any wrongdoers accountable. We’re just too far from Exxon Valdez-caliber trials. To make the polluter pay, we need to first remove our in-no-way-tive governments from the corporate payrolls of commodity companies. Their unholy alliance dominates our economies and defines our social contracts. It keeps our societies in a strait jacket and puts the brakes on the upward mobility of millions of our people. It must be laid to rest.

That will be the break-even point in our efforts to build socially responsible knowledge economies.

Anonymous said...

"I remain skeptical that either Russia or Ukraine will hold any wrongdoers accountable."

au contraire - this has opened up a relatively sleeping can of worms in relations to a disputed territory - and 'see you in court' (ahem, European court that is) the new catch phrase.

Україна і Росія готуються судитися
Ukraine and Russia plan to sue


Taras said...

I’ll be more than happy to see my skepticism proved wrong. Let’s see what happens in court.