Last Updated on May 26, 2020 by Amit Abhishek
The strait of Singapore and Malacca is the hub of global shipping being the link between Europe and East Asia. More than 80.0% of japan and china oil tankers/oil caring tankers to them pass through the region. It is one of the busiest routes with more than 80,000 ships passing through this region each year.
Although its a major transit route for global shipping it also accounts for marine pollution with a large number of accidents; due to changing sea bed topography, narrow channels, shallow water, and pirate attack.
There are more than 500 cases of marine accidents in the Malacca region in between 1978 to 2017. Accidental discharge of oil and chemical accounts for more than 70.0% of the total cause for marine pollution.
According to the Marine Department of Malaysia there are on average minimum 26 to 30 such accidents each year with small and big ships. Poor visibility due to natural ( forest fire ) and man-made ( industries and mining ) have contributed to these accidents.
Major Accidents in the Past
Although a number of accidents including oil spill happened each year from 1970 to 2017 in this Area. We will take the quantity of 700 tonnes as the deciding factor to separate major oil spills from the others.
It is the quantity followed by the international tanker owners’ pollution federation for separating large accidents with other minors ( regular ) ones. Some of the major accidents of the past are:-
- Accident of Pulau Bulan: In June 1972 a super tanker “Myrtea” suffers a heavy loss due to grounding at Pulau Bulan. Around 1000 tonne of crude oil was estimated at the time to be leaked from the damage / affected tanks. The thick oil layer formed on the sea was then carried to the mainland Singapore by the oceanic currents.
- The Showa Maru Accident: In January 1975 a Japanese supertanker named ” Showa Maru ” suffered heavy loss due to grounding in the Pulau Sebarok region. Around 3,000 tonnes of crude oil was estimated to be leaked and washed away to the shores of Singapore Malaysia and Indonesia.
- St. John’s Oil Spill: In July 1987 an oil tanker registered in Liberia undergoes grounding 4 km south east of St. john’s island. Another oil tanker registered in Liberia undergoes grounding in the near by region in the same month. This leads to more than 4,000 tonnes of the total oil spill in the area; Affecting sea line / Shore and local fishing industry.
- The Song Sang Disaster: In August 1996 an oil tanker registered in Singapore was found/caught dumping oil in the Sentosa region. The oil dumped was so large that it affected three major beaches of the area. The ship was later finned $400,000 in Singapore currency.
- Evoikos Collision: In October 1997 a crude oil tanker named ” Orapin Global ” registered in Thailand collided with another tanker named ” Evoikos ” 5 km off the cost of Singapore. Around 28,000 tonnes of oil was estimated at the time to be leaked into the sea. The damage was such that the authorities had to take extensive international help on demand and took months to clean up.
- Batu Berhanti Incident: In October 2000 an oil tanker registered in Panama ” Natuna Sea ” undergoes grounding at the Batu Berhanti region just 8 km apart from Sentosa. Around 7,000 tonnes of crude oil was estimated at the time to be leaked and washed away to the beaches of St. John’s island, Sentosa and Paula Sekijang.
- St. Vincent Incident: In may 2010 a Grenadian registered bulk carrier collided with an oil tanker registered Malaysia ” St Vincent “. About 2,500 tonnes of crude oil was leaked and washed away to the beaches of Changi and east cost parks. The collision occurs only 12 km from the Changi affecting its beach, Eco system, and naval base.
- The 2014 Incident: In 2014 three ships collided in the time span of two months in Singapore waters. An estimated 750 tonnes of oil leaked into the sea of the beach of St. John’s Island and Kusu.
Local Laws For Marine Pollution Control
After subsequent checks in 1993, 97 and 2005 with oil and Greece way above the tolerant limit in the coastal waters. Authorities are becoming more and more strict against any form of discharge overboard.
Although Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia have already ratified Marpol Annexes; but maintain a series of local laws and legislation dealing with marine pollution.
Regional laws like continental shelf Act ( 1973 ), Exclusive economic zone ( 1983 ), Regulation no 51 ( 1993 ) and Amended Merchant Shipping Ordinance ( 1991 ); given more power to marine authorities for prevention and reduction of marine pollution.
The Singapore legislation for preventing marine pollution gives much-needed power to the MPA ( Maritime and Port Authority ); by allowing them to inspect, deny or detain any ship in their region for suspected discharge.
The Malaysian maritime enforcement agency ( MMEA ) established under act 633 of 2004; works for the safety and security of the Malaysian waters. It has special power to enforce pollution control in the Territorial sea, a major part of Malacca strait, Special Economic Zone ( Another narrow part of Malacca strait ), and inland waters.
Similarly Indonesia has ratified major international conventions such as Marpol, UNCLOS, and CLC 1992 for the prevention of pollution at sea.
Moreover under the shipping act of Regulation 21 of 2010 and regulation 24 of 2014; local laws are placed for dealing with such concerns.
Although Different countries in the Malacca strait hold different laws but they are quite similar. These agency are always in contact of one another and work together many times to deal with serious incidents like an oil spill.
Rules of Compliance
Under these laws of Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia; all ships must comply with the following rules in Malacca strait:
- Each vessel must comply with the minimum requirement for seaworthiness and prevention of oil pollution.
- All crew of the affected ship is responsible for containing, avoiding and possible cleaning to avoid further damage in event of accidental oil spill. The master is then responsible for informing the nearby authorities at the earliest possible.
- Evey master is required to comply by the instruction and laws of the local authority.
- Under the law it has been prohibited for all ships to discharge oil, ballast, garbage, toxic waste, dirt and even uninformed discharge of bilge via oily water separator.
- Master or the person in charge must inform the authorities before discharging bilge water passing through the oily water separator in special economic zone of Malacca strait and territorial waters.
- The owner and the operator ( Master & Chief Engineer ) will be responsible for any detection of marine pollution from their ship.
Is There any local Regulation Restricting Discharge of Bilge water through OWS?
Regulation 4 of Marpol Annex 1 allows for the discharge of bilge water ( An oil mixture of water + Oil ) passing through the oily water separator. The oil content at the discharge is set to be never exceed above 15 ppm.
Apart from this you can only need to ensure that there is no mixing with cargo residue or the oil mixture itself does not originates from cargo pump room for discharge at sea.
A Ship is allowed to discharge when in route and processed through an approved oily water separator. Thus Marpol allows for UN-regulated, UN-restricted discharge of bildge water at sea outside the special areas.
But under the exclusive economic zone act 1984 of Malaysia; It prohibits discharge of any oil mixture in the special economic zone of Malacca strait and its territorial waters.
If found guilty of violating this law the ship along with the operator ( Master and Chief Engineer ) is liable for a fine of 1,000,000 in Malaysian currency. So yes! Local regulation of Malaysia and Singapore do restrict ships from unrestricted bildge discharge.
But the authorities will allow for such discharge under Marpol annex 1 provision as long as you inform them in advance about ship position with amount and rate of expected discharge.
Note: The article is produced on Request by Fabian.
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