Emergency cleanup efforts are ongoing along the coast of Perú after a reported 252,000 gallons of oil spilled into the South Pacific. The oil spill allegedly traces back to the Tonga volcanic eruption of January 15, but the Peruvian government nonetheless opened an investigation and could impose $33 million in fines against the oil companies involved, per Reuters.
An Italian oil tanker, Mare Doricum, was carrying nearly one million barrels of Brazilian crude that came from a terminal owned by Petrobras, Bloomberg reports. The tanker was unloading oil at Repsol’s La Pampilla refinery near Ventanilla, Perú when high ocean waves produced by the Tonga eruption reached the tanker and refinery, allegedly causing the oil spill. Repsol initially claimed that seven barrels fell into the ocean, but the Peruvian Government said it was closer to 6,000, according to La República.
Even though the eruption happened some 6,800 miles away from the spill’s affected area, NASA footage of the eruption shows its destructive potential:
To give you an idea of the far-flung effects, the continental U.S. is 2,800 miles wide. So, the high waves Tonga produced had to travel the length of the U.S. twice and then some to reach this specific tanker. In light of this, the Peruvian government has also faced criticism. The Peruvian Navy, in particular, is being criticized for not issuing a Tsunami alert following the eruption, according to Bloomberg.
I don’t know. Shouldn’t oil companies also keep tabs on oceanic and/or atmospheric conditions, since clearly these result in disruptions to their operations? At the very least, I’d think the risk of fines from, say, oil spills would be reason enough for them to keep an eye out.
In any case, the Peruvian Navy and the refinery are playing nice, as both have worked together to contain the oil spill and throughout the cleanup efforts. That’s good, but the spill has reportedly endangered dozens of species and covered two miles of the Peruvian coast already. Not to mention, the effects are likely not all accounted for yet. In other words, this isn’t over.
Perú’s Ministry of the Environment, or MINAM, has given Repsol ten days to clean up the oil spill and the official investigation — much like the cleanup — is still underway.