Saturday September 24, 2016, a massive fire erupted after a reported explosion on a gasoline tanker, called Burgos, just off Mexico’s gulf coast. The boat was anchored only 7 miles off the coast of Boca del Rio in southeastern Veracruz when it radioed for help at about 11:30 am Saturday morning.
Firefighting boats arrived at the scene, quickly, and after burning for about 30 hours, by Sunday September 25, 2016, the fire was finally extinguished according to the country’s state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos or Pemex.
Pemex’s ship, Burgos, was carrying about 168,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel and one of the oldest ships in the companys 17 tanker type fleet. This amount is notably way below its capacity of about 270,000 barrel.
It is always a punch in the gut to hear of another accidental oil spill in our precious oceans. Pemex has had experts begin investigating what could have caused the fire. No further statement has been released so far thus the cause of the explosion is still unknown.
Company representatives have released a statement saying that flights over the scene, where the ship caught fire, show a minimal amount of leaked oil into the ocean water. They also report that the amount of oil that was leaked, was contained by floating booms. The company accredits the minimal fuel spill to the ship’s double hull; the volatility of the gasoline and diesel on the ship aided in its evaporation in the first place.
Juan Ignacio Fernandez Carvajal, the director of the Veracruz Port Authority stated in an interview, “No other risk [to the environment] exists; the fuel is spilling in the sea and doesn’t contaminate because they are light fuels. It’s not crude, it’s not going to the bottom of the sea, it stays on the surface.”
Pemex is happy to announce that all 31 crew members were rescued and returned to safety without injury.
What does this mean for environment?
Mexico’s environmental protection agency, called Profepa, has ensured worried parties that a mile of containment booms has been deployed to prevent the spill from reaching any further towards the coast and shoreline.
Even with these containment measures, fishermen and other locals have reported “oily stains” on the water’s surface as far away as 8 miles away from the initial spill site. Since the reports, government officials have also confirmed the citing’s themselves and that the spill has spread despite previous statements.
In addition to the oil spills in the water, the measures used to stop the fire, a chemical foam, have also been reported as spreading throughout the area. This chemical foam poses a risk to many species found in the region. To add insult to injury, a strong cold front has brought powerful winds through the area, spreading the toxins further.
In order to help protect the Veracruz reef system, which is made up of 17 coral reefs, The National Protected Areas Commission or Conanp will be in the area to monitor or detect any damage to the reefs. Given the size and the number of species the system supports, it is considered on the of the most important t reefs systems in Mexican waters.
Preventing oil spills
This is not the first accidental oil spill for this company (or for many other oil company’s I may add) and it is important to remember that even the smallest amount of oil , crude or not, in the water can be detrimental to that ecosystem and the many creatures we rely on for food and resources ourselves. It is also important to note that while we may not always see the immediate effects of oil spills on coral reefs and other ocean dwelling organisms right now, there could be long term effects we don’t know anything about yet. Any oil spilling into water systems is toxic to all the life that relies on that system (including us!!) and should be prevented by any terms necessary.
References and photos courtesy of: