Each maritime accident lawyer at our firm can tell you that accidents involving oil spills are extremely serious. Not only can crewmembers get hurt, but the damage to the environment can be disastrous. Bahamas officials now have to deal with the cleanup and repercussions of their own incident after a cargo ship spilled roughly 3,000 gallons of oil into the ocean in the northern Bahamas earlier this week.
According to Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, crewmembers were able to recover a portion of the oil off Grand Bahama island, but he did not specify how much. Dorsett explained that chemical dispersants that break up oil were not used because of concern it might harm marine life. Instead, he said the worst of the oil mess would be dispersed naturally through wave action and tides.
“It is preferable to let nature take its course … allowing the dispersed material to flow with the natural tide into the Atlantic Ocean where there are no land-based resources at risk,” said Dorsett.
While any type of oil spill is extremely dangerous, Bahamian officials have described the maritime accident as a “tier one spill,” the lowest of its kind.
But despite the lower level threat, Bahamian officials expect to notify the United States about the spill off Grand Bahama, the northernmost island in the chain off the eastern coast of Florida and the closest island to the state, located about 55 miles from the mainland.
“We want to let our neighbors know,” said Transport Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin. “It’s not because we anticipate an issue, but as a matter of duty.”
On Tuesday, a helicopter flew over the damaged vessel, Panamanian-flagged cargo ship Eugenia, and officials said they noticed an oil sheen coming from the container ship and looked like it was heading toward the Florida Straits. On a second observation flight Wednesday, Bahamian environmental official Dwyane Curtis said no evidence of “any residual fuel in the area” was seen.
The damaged cargo vessel has been towed back into harbor by a local salvage company, whose owner made his opinions over the spill known. The owner criticized the Bahamian government for failing to do a better job of cleaning up the oil spill right after the accident had been acknowledged.
The island’s government is still investigating the incident to determine what caused the hull breach in the Eugenia, a vessel owned by Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. The Bahamas National Trust, which manages the islands’ national parks, said it is monitoring the situation.
“Obviously we are concerned. You worry that if you get a spill close to our shores, if it washes up and into mangroves, it will have an effect,” said Neil McKinney, president of the trust.
If any crewmembers or innocent bystanders experience injuries due to the oil spill, they may be eligible to seek compensation for their pain and suffering with the help of a maritime lawyer.
Photo Credit: fleetmon.com