Caretaker Cabinet Sets Up Task Force for Operation to Unload Stranded Ship off Bulgarian Coast
A task force has been established to coordinate the unloading of a Panamanian-flagged ship with fertilizers, that ran into cliffs in the Black Sea off the coast of Northern Bulgaria and is threatening to cause a major pollution of the sea water.
The decision for the task force was announced by Transport Minister Hristo Alexiev after the government's weekly meeting Wednesday.
"We have two key priorities: the environment and people's health," he said.
The ship, Vera Su, was on its way to the Port of Varna with 3,300 t of urea and 20 t of fuel when it was stranded September 20. The spot where it sits is part of a EU-wide network of protected areas.
The ship owner was asked to take action but all it proposed was dumping the urea in the sea. The Bulgarian authorities took the matter in their own hands on September 26 when it became clear that the Vera Su was leaking urea into the sea. A floating crane started unloading the urea but some quantities were dropped in the sea and the operation was put on hold.
On September 29, it was announced that all operations are suspended due to bad weather.
The Transport Minister said that massive waves may force the evacuation of the Vera Su 9 crew members.
He also said that almost all fuel has been drained from the ship leaving only a small amount for electricity.
The Minister said that he found "criminal irresponsibility back in the years" when he visited the area on Tuesday.
"There are no rules or procedures to follow in such cases. Neither the State nor the private sector has any resources set aside for emergencies like that. All available resources were mobilized but they proved insufficient - and all this happens even though the law clearly says how the State must prepared for such situations," the Minister said.
Alexiev added that five plans for unloading the ship and pulling it back into deep sea were being developed simultaneously./bta
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