Viewing cable 05MUSCAT151
Title: OIL SPILL CLOSES PORT SALALAH FOR 48 HOURS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT1512005-01-26 13:17:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 000151 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR OES/OA; NEA/ARPI (TROBERTS) 
AMMAN FOR EST HUB (JWHITTLESEY) 
NAVCENT FOR POLAD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/26/2015 
TAGS: SENV EWWT PHSA ETRD EPET MU ESTH
SUBJECT: OIL SPILL CLOSES PORT SALALAH FOR 48 HOURS 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard L. Baltimore III. 
Reason: 1.4 (b). 
 
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SUMMARY 
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¶1. (C)  Three tons of oil spilled into the port of Salalah 
January 18 after a routine bunkering operation went awry. 
The immediate cause of the accident appears to be human error 
aboard the "Maersk Greenwich."   Based on preliminary 
information regarding the actions taken by Port Salalah and 
the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and 
Water Resources (MRMEWR), it appears the contaminated vessel 
was allowed to move away from its position within the 
protection of the jetty and into the open water of the 
anchorage area, allowing oil to spread onto a nearby beach. 
The port is currently 75 percent operational with 3 berths up 
and running.  Available resources appeared to have been 
limited as local fishing dinghies were asked to assist while 
a cleaning crew from the United Arab Emirates made its way to 
the scene.  END SUMMARY. 
 
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HUMAN ERROR 
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¶2. (SBU)  Initial reports of an oil spill that occurred at 
Port Salalah January 17 suggest that after an engineer 
stepped away from the control room aboard the "Maersk 
Greenwich," three tons of fuel oil spilled into the port as 
the vessel's fifth tank reached full capacity during a 
routine bunkering operation.  The engineer has since been 
released from employment with Maersk. 
 
¶3. (SBU)  According to port officials, the ship was 
immediately detained and prevented from leaving while 
protective booms were put up around the port to contain the 
spread of oil from the ship's deck and hull.  This was 
immediately followed by a full closure (for 48 hours) of the 
port, causing some ships to be delayed in the anchorage area 
just outside the jetty or be diverted to other ports in 
region. 
 
¶4. (U)  A task force was set up by Sulaiman bin Mohammed 
al-Busaidi, Superintendent General of Pollution Control at 
the MRMEWR.  The coalition brought together the capabilities 
of several government agencies, including the Ministry of 
Environment, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, 
the Royal Oman Police Coast Guard, and Salalah Port Services. 
 Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) contributed 50 boxes of 
absorbent material by the end of the second night.  In 
addition, international assistance was requested from the 
Spill Response Company in the UAE in order to contain the 
spill and expedite remediation.  The company crew arrived 
January 20, with their equipment following via road a few 
hours later.  In the meantime, several reports suggest that 
local fisherman were enlisted to aid cleanup efforts. 
 
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QUESTIONS ABOUT RESPONSE 
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¶5. (C)  According to one official at Salalah Port Services 
(SPS), an Omani joint venture with Danish-owned A.P. 
Moller-Maersk Group responsible for managing Port Salalah, 
the cleanup proved to be a "perfect scenario in which the 
port, ministries and private sector worked flawlessly." 
Officials from an agent representing one of the affected 
ships disagreed with this assessment, however, saying that 
the port mistakenly let the contaminated ship move from its 
position within the jetty into the outlying anchoring area in 
open water, thereby spreading the spill and causing 
contamination of a nearby beach.  An official from the MRMEWR 
says that in order to clean the affected area with dispersant 
(not recommended for use in depths less than 25 meters), the 
contaminated ship had to be moved.  It was during the ship's 
movement that churning caused additional oil hidden in the 
jetty to appear. 
 
¶6. (SBU)  The "Maersk Greenwich" was permitted by the MRMEWR 
on January 18 to leave port upon receipt of a guarantee of 
payment (estimated by one source to be approximately USD 
400,000) for all clean-up costs by its acting agent in Oman. 
Other vessels contaminated by the spill were cleaned in port 
before departure.  (Note:  Vessels contaminated with oil face 
stiff penalties and can even be barred from entering other 
ports.  END NOTE.) 
 
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OPEN FOR BUSINESS 
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¶7. (SBU)  As of January 26, three of Salalah's four berths 
are open for business and the port is operating at almost 
full-volume capacity.   A representative of Port Salalah said 
that while business was lost during the closure, they expect 
the spill to have no material bearing on their earnings this 
year. 
 
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COMMENT 
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¶8. (C)  While officials at the Port of Salalah contend that 
the spill was handled within standard operating procedures 
and that no oil escaped from the immediate port, other 
officials argue that poor decisions taken during the event 
illustrate the need for improvements if Port Salalah seeks to 
attract more business from bunkering services.  As one 
official summarized, "Reaction time was slow and resources 
were inadequate." 
BALTIMORE