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  • Hong Kong-based South Express Ltd. could face major insurance penalties for code violation.

    Hong Kong-based South Express Ltd. could face major insurance penalties for code violation. | Photo: Australian High Commission Solomon Islands Handout

Published 2 March 2019

Greenpeace Australia Pacific expressed "outrageous," noting a "direct threat" to the island and the 2,000 people living there who required "immediate action, compensation [and] remediation."

A 225m ship carrying some 600 tons of oil has, so far, spilled 75 tons of its load in the Solomon Islands after an investigation points to a possible breach which caused the vessel to run aground and is now endangering a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Heritage site.

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"The impact of this oil spill will have a devastating effect on the surrounding environment, including potentially on a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the livelihood of the people of Rennell," Australia's High Commissioner in the Solomon Islands Rod Brazier said in a statement.

The spill is near East Rennell Island, which “was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1998 and is the largest raised coral atoll in the world," UNESCO documented in a Feb. 20 statement.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific expressed "outrageous," noting a "direct threat" to the island and the 2,000 people living there who required "immediate action, compensation [and] remediation."

On another note, Solomon Islands Maritime Safety administration acting director, Jonah Mitau, told The Guardian that “there is a possible breach of the international safety management code, there appears to be lack of a crew posted on lookout/watch during that night.”

As a result, the ship’s owner, Hong Kong-based South Express Ltd., could face major insurance penalties for an insufficient night watch crew complement violation.

“An incident of this nature, of course, requires charges to be laid on someone and investigation is continuing and when it concludes we can know for sure,” Mitau added, disclosing that the ship’s master, chief officer, chief engineer and second engineer have been informed of the possibility of further questioning.

“There’s a possibility the insurers may try to walk away from it.”

The ship is also believed to be carrying a load of bauxite.

“Bauxite extraction and loading is continuing in the bay; that is further churning up the oil,” a source based in the Solomon Islands disclosed.

The vessel was chartered by Indonesian mining company Bintan Solomon Islands.

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