Bulk oil has been nearly removed from water bodies and beaches. Photo courtesy: facebook.com/sentosaofficial

The removal of bulk oil from the sea and beaches is nearly completed, a joint news release stated on Monday. There has been no observed oil slick along the East Coast and Changi since 18 June, based on both satellite and drone images. The bulk of oil-soaked sand has been removed from most of the affected public beaches, with the exception of Tanjong and Palawan beach at Sentosa. To date, about 550 tonnes of oil-soaked sand and debris have been collected from all affected beaches.

Bulk oil has been nearly removed from water bodies and beaches. Photo courtesy: facebook.com/sentosaofficial

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), National Environment Agency (NEA), National Parks Board (NParks), Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) and private organisations have deployed over 700 personnel since 14 June for cleaning-up operations. Over 3,400 metres of boom have been laid, to help contain trapped oil from flowing back to sea, and to prevent oil remnants from being washed ashore and into the inland canals while beach clean-up operations are ongoing. As the tides may continue to sweep in more oil remnants, the authorities vowed to be vigilant and continue to monitor.

Clean-up operations transition into the next stage of cleaning rock bunds

“We are moving to the next phase of the clean-up response, which is focused on the more difficult clean-up of oil remnants trapped in areas such as coastal features, waterside infrastructures and rock bunds. These areas are not as easily accessible, and oil could be trapped in crevices and below beach surfaces that require significant effort to clean,” said the release.

The new phase will involve specialised resources and equipment. This cleaning will be done carefully, considering the conditions at each site, such as wind, tide and currents, to minimise the oil on the rock bunds from re-polluting the coastline, beaches, and biodiversity-sensitive areas. “We are working with the oil spill consultants to deploy the most effective methods for cleaning while minimising cleaning contamination to surrounding areas,” it said.

Minister Grace Fu visited Tanjong Beach and Siloso Beach on June 20 to witness the clean-up drive. Photo courtesy: www.facebook.com/gracefu.hy

For the more heavily impacted areas, including Sentosa’s Tanjong and Palawan beaches, the specialised clean-up operations are expected to take around three months, the joint release informed.

For the more lightly impacted areas at Sentosa Siloso beach and certain stretches of East Coast Park, this clean-up is expected to be completed earlier. The rock bund cleaning at Siloso beach has commenced since 21 June and the Singapore Civil Defence Force has deployed a Rapid Response Fire Vessel at the affected area to support the cleaning operation. The rock bund cleaning at selected rock bunds at East Coast Park beaches will commence this week. Authorities are working towards the progressive re-opening of certain stretches earlier as well. All the beaches on Sentosa remain open.

For biodiversity-sensitive sites, ongoing efforts are underway to monitor longer term impacts to biodiversity.

Even after a beach has been cleaned and re-opened, swimming and water activities can resume only after water quality has gone back to normal and is stable. The Government is also closely monitoring the impact of the oil spill on related businesses and affected residents as the situation continues to evolve.

Sentosa Cove is less severely affected, as lockgates were closed promptly, supplemented by absorbent booms since 15 June 2024. Currently, vessel movements within Sentosa Cove have been halted and these efforts have been made to minimise the impact on Cove waterways and canals within residential areas, while awaiting oil deposits on seaward rock bunds to be cleaned. Vessel movements would be allowed to resume when lockgates are safe to open.

Final clean-up of residual oil in areas off Pasir Panjang Container Terminal

Cleaning of trapped oil remnants in the shoreline areas and waterside infrastructures off Pasir Panjang Container Terminal including PSA Terminal and Labrador Nature Reserve has been largely completed on 23 June. There are no observed residual oil floating off the shoreline and the stranded oil near the shore and port structure since this morning. The upstream cleaning of the oil spillage is important to help prevent further spread of floating oil to other downstream locations, including Sentosa.

Containment booms have been laid at the mouth of Keppel Marina to facilitate the clean-up efforts of the accumulated oil. A total of about 40 clean-up personnel and two skimmer systems to recover the accumulated oil have been deployed. Oil booms at the mouth of the three canals leading to the residential areas have been set up and cleaning works are ongoing to clear the oil gathered there.

Clear patches of waters off the Eastern Anchorages, Changi, and Pasir Ris

There have been no observed oil slicks at the Eastern Anchorages based on both satellite images and daily drone monitoring flights. Sporadic patches of oil sheens are observed but this thin layer of oil on the water surface is expected to dissipate through a natural process.

No oil has been observed at Changi and Pasir Ris Park beaches. NEA will continue to monitor the situation closely. As a precaution, members of the public are advised against swimming at Changi and affected beaches and engaging in other primary contact water activities until further notice.

Cleanup work going on in Sentosa. Photo courtesy: www.facebook.com/gracefu.hy
Cleanup work going on in Sentosa. Photo courtesy: www.facebook.com/gracefu.hy

The Current Buster systems are currently stationed off Changi and the east coast area and are ready to respond to any sightings of oil slicks in the area, with the support of the Police Coast Guard monitoring the area off Changi. The situation is dynamic, and it is possible for the oil spill to resurface at a later stage or flow to and affect other areas. The agencies will continue to remain vigilant and monitor the situation.

No significant observations at biodiversity-sensitive areas and Southern Islands

Even as the cleaning of the shoreline at Labrador Nature Reserve is largely completed, agencies are closely monitoring the area and oil-absorbent booms will continue to be deployed there as a precaution. As of 23 June, the beaches at St John’s, Lazarus and Kusu Islands remain cleared of oily sand. The beaches will be monitored for further signs of oil slicks. Containment booms have been laid across the entrance to Kusu Island, as an added preventative measure. The recovery of the accumulated oil around St John’s Island and Lazarus Island is ongoing after the booms were deployed.

While no oil has been observed off West Coast Park, Chek Jawa Wetlands at Pulau Ubin, Pasir Ris Park and Coney Island Park, oil-absorbent booms have been deployed there as precautionary measures. Time will be needed to observe and understand the long-term effects of the oil spill on the biodiversity in those areas.

Galvanising collective action by the community

Over 1,500 members of the public have come forward, indicating interest in helping with the oil spill management efforts. Over 2,000 more members of the public have also indicated interest in being updated on ongoing efforts and future volunteering opportunities.

Thus far, over 400 volunteers, including volunteers of the Public Hygiene Council, have helped to patrol East Coast Park and West Coast Park, advising members of the public to stay away from affected beachfronts, as well as reporting sightings of oil stains and of oil-slicked wildlife.

Workers at Siloso Beach. Photo courtesy: Sentosa Development Corporation.
Workers at Siloso Beach. Photo courtesy: Sentosa Development Corporation.

Volunteers from Friends of Marine Park and marine experts are carrying out surveys at St John’s Island and Lazarus Island, together with NParks staff, to monitor the impact of the oil spill on biodiversity on these offshore islands.

Agencies have consulted around 30 stakeholder groups, including nature groups, grassroots and Institutes of Higher Learning, to explore opportunities to involve them in assessing and managing the longer-term impact of the oil spill on our biodiversity.

Fish safe to consume; ambient air quality safe, water supply unaffected

To date, Singapore’s fish farms remain unaffected by the oil spill. Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has been taking fish samples twice daily from coastal fish farms in the East Johor Strait for food safety tests. The test results continue to indicate that the local fish are safe for consumption. SFA has also been closely engaging the fish farmers to undertake precautionary measures to protect their farming areas. SFA has provided absorbent pads and canvas sheets to the fish farms, and assisted or advised them on the deployment of these items. SFA also continues to test imported seafood under its existing food safety system.

The air quality in affected areas at East Coast Park, Labrador Nature Reserve and Sentosa remains well within safe levels. NEA will continue to monitor the air quality at the affected areas daily to ensure the safety of the public and personnel involved in the clean-up operations.

Singapore’s drinking water supply remains unaffected. There is no impact on operations at the desalination plants and reservoirs. National water agency PUB’s water quality readings remain normal.

Impact on businesses

Beachfront businesses are open for business except for those offering activities that take place at sea or on beaches which are currently closed. The Government is in touch with these businesses and is also closely monitoring the business impact.

British Marine, the insurer of the stationary tanker, Marine Honour, has set up 3rd party claims contact to attend to affected parties who have been impacted. For claims related inquiries, contact [email protected].

Transferring remaining oil from Marine Honour

The damaged Marine Honour which spilled the oil on 14 June is currently anchored off the western petroleum anchorage. The remaining fuel oil onboard from the ruptured cargo tank and its full contents onboard the vessel must be emptied before it can be towed into the shipyard for its repair. Aside the containment booms laid around the vessel, a 35-tonnes oil load current buster system is on station to respond to any potential leaks in the lightering process to transfer the Marine Honour oil to another
vessel.

Timeline of operation between June 14 and 15, 2024. Photo courtesy: SG Press Centre.
Timeline of operation between June 14 and 15, 2024. Photo courtesy: SG Press Centre.

The safe lightering of Marine Honour is expected to take one to two weeks as care is needed to ensure the stability of the vessel throughout the process.

Regional cooperation

Singaporean authorities are in close contact with their Malaysian counterparts, which shared on 19 June 2024 that they have observed some oil slicks off Johor. The city-state will continue to share relevant information to facilitate their efforts.

Polluted beach at Johor. Photo courtesy: www.facebook.com/YBNanan
Polluted beach at Johor. Photo courtesy: www.facebook.com/YBNanan