The Shetland Oil Disaster: Clean-up teams prepare for worst

OFFICIALS co-ordinating the clean-up operation are preparing for the worst - that the full 85,000 tons of oil on board the Braer will leak from its split hull. This would be twice the volume of oil spilled when the Exxon Valdez ran aground on the Alaskan coast four years ago.

The gale conditions off the Shetland Isles mean their plans are unlikely to get under way until later today at the earliest. Emergency equipment, such as containment booms and dispersant chemicals, was on its way to the islands last night from the oil industry's emergency store in Southampton.

'With the weather like it is, it is not practical to take any immediate action,' George Henderson, of the Shetland Islands Council emergency operation, said last night.

Spray dispersants will be used first - booms for containing oil are best suited to calm conditions. Six Dakota DC3 aircraft, usually based at Inverness and at Coventry, are on stand-by for this purpose. Two Cessna 402 aircraft with remote-sensing equipment on board were also on alert last night. These can track and analyse the oil slick as it progresses. Storm force winds were preventing them from flying into Sumburgh.

As soon as the tanker ran aground, the clean-up became the responsibility of the local authority. Yesterday, the team at the emergency centre set up at Sumburgh airport was still assessing the situation.

Tony Brewster, of Bristow Helicopters, said: 'Quite considerable quantities of oil are leaking out. She is holed beneath the waterline and quite a lot of oil is coming out.'

Mr Henderson said the poor weather was expected to continue, and possibly to worsen, with the wind coming from the south-west directly into the shore. 'Spraying is of little value at the moment because we can't get the oil sprayed at the correct location. Even using aircraft the task is tricky because so much oil is being driven onshore, it is not going seaward. It will be a shore clean-up.'

The Department of Transport said: 'The first line of attack is dispersant spraying from the pollution unit's DC3 aircraft. Conditions at sea are too rough to allow any recovery operations or spraying from vessels. We must assume that all 85,000 tons will be spilt.

'About 40 per cent of the oil can be expected to evaporate. A further 20-30 per cent should disperse in the sea.

'Some oil will undoubtedly come ashore - on rocky shores oil will be washed off and dispersed by waves. Some will get into coves, bays, and beaches, and will need to be cleared up as conditions allow.

'The Marine Pollution Control Unit's equipment will be sent to Lerwick. This includes skimmers, vacuum pumps, and booms. Other equipment is available in the Shetland Isles.

'It is too soon to decide upon a strategy for clean-up. Much depends on the weather and when the oil comes ashore. We have predictions but in these very strong winds and high seas nothing is certain.'

Joe Nichols, technical manager at the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, said it was difficult to predict whether the 85,000 tons of oil would leak out. That depended on the position in which the tanker was lying, and the nature of the immediate coastline. 'It is possible to lose the entire cargo, but that is extremely rare.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific