The oil-slick is now said to extend for some four miles and is endangering East Rennell, a World Heritage Area that includes the world’s largest raised coral atoll. The location had already been flagged as at risk by Unesco because of local logging and fishing activities.
The Solomon Trader, which had been chartered to pick up bauxite by Indonesian company Bintan Mining, is owned by Hong Kong company South Express.
Insurer Korea P&I Club engaged a salvage company to deal with the wreck and control the oil-spill. But, a month on, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has reported that little progress has been made.
Australia had responded to an appeal for assistance by the Solomon Islands government by sending specialist personnel, equipment and vessels.
There are now fears that if a low tide causes the Solomon Trader to capsize, the spill could become even worse. Meanwhile Bintan Mining has been allowed to continue loading bauxite onto other bulk-carriers, which is said to be aggravating the situation by churning up the oil slick.
Liveaboard operator Worldwide Dive & Sail, which has been active in promoting scuba diving in the Solomon Islands, this week responded to enquiries from divers by issuing its own statement.
It said that because Rennell Island is more than 150 miles south of the Honiara, Guadalcanal base of its vessel Solomons PNG Master, it foresaw no immediate impact on its own upcoming departures.
“However, the potential implications on both the marine environment and the indigenous people is significant,” says WWDS.
“The eastern half of Rennell Island is on the World Heritage list and is home to 1200 Solomon Islanders who live by subsistence-farming, hunting and fishing. We will be monitoring the situation closely, and will offer any assistance that we can.”