Japanese underwater vehicle locates sunken Philippine oil tanker

BenarNews staff
Japanese underwater vehicle locates sunken Philippine oil tanker This handout provided by the Japanese deep positioning vessel Shin Nichi Maru shows a monitor with footage of the sunken oil tanker MT Princess Empress on the ocean floor off Naujan town in Mindoro province, central Philippines, March 21, 2023.
Philippine Coast Guard handout

A Philippine provincial governor on Tuesday announced that a leaking oil tanker, which has contaminated beaches and marine life, was found about three weeks after it sank off central Oriental Mindoro province.

The MT Princess Empress, which sank Feb. 28, was found by Hakuyo, a Japanese remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Images released by the Philippine Coast Guard show the tanker appearing to be intact in an upright position on the seabed.

“MT Princess Empress has finally been found!” Oriental Mindoro Gov. Humerlito Dolor posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

The coast guard said the tanker was found about 7.7 nautical miles from the coastal town of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro. Agence France-Presse news agency reported it was 400 meters below sea level.

The coast guard, the provincial government, tanker owner RDC Reield Marine Services, and its insurers are expected to meet to discuss the salvage process, Dolor said.

“We will respond correspondingly once we have discussed the result of the assessment (trip) that was carried out by the ROV. What is important is now they can see what is at the bottom,” Dolor said.

Meanwhile, defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr., in a report to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., noted that his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, said Washington dispatched a humanitarian assistance and disaster response team to aid in the cleanup.

“The Philippine Coast Guard, on the other hand, specifically requested the U.S. provide oil spill booms. Pending the approval of the president to accept the equipment, these booms will help contain the oil spill in order to protect the environment and assist in recovery,” Galvez said in the report on Monday.

The tanker was carrying 800,000 liters (211,337 gallons) of industrial fuel oil when it sank.

It has leaked diesel and thick oil that has that has caused more than 18,000 Philippine fishermen to lose their livelihoods and is threatening a fragile marine ecosystem in the central Philippines.

Some of the spill has reached the shores of pristine islands and beaches and is threatening to pollute the Verde Island Passage, which is considered the “center of the center” of marine biodiversity in the archipelago.

The passage, surrounded by Oriental Mindoro and four other provinces, is recognized as the center of global shore-fish biodiversity and provides food and livelihood for more than 2 million people, according to officials and environmentalists.

On Monday, crews removed oil from the shores of three villages on Verde Island. Meanwhile, an oil sheen was seen along Tingloy and at Maricaban Island, areas that are in Batangas to the north.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been assisting affected local communities in making improvised oil spill booms to mitigate the damage.


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