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Probe Into Shanghai Oil Spill

Investigations into an oil spill in Shanghai's Huangpu River on Saturday are underway. A small cargo ship rammed into an oil tanker causing the tanker to spill some 50 tons of oil into the river. Maritime rescuers said yesterday the oil spill has been cleaned up. 

"Chaoyangping No. 8," an oil tanker registered in Zhejiang Province, was carrying 3,000 tons of gasoline to the Gaoqiao Oil Purchase and Supply Station in Pudong, Shanghai, just before noon on Saturday when "Wushan," a 3,000-ton cargo vessel registered in Fujian Province, rammed into it.

The collision took place near a dock on Jungong Road. Sailors on the oil tanker said the cargo ship was backing out of its berth to leave the port when it crashed into the tanker. The tanker's first mate, Yu Songbo, said the cargo vessel failed to sound its siren three times before backing up, as is required by regulation.

"We warned it (the ship), but it didn't swerve aside," the tanker's chief told the Oriental Morning Post.

The collision left two holes in the right side of the tanker and two oil-storage cabins started spilling gasoline into the river.

The tanker's captain managed to steer it safely to the Gaoqiao oil station under maritime police escort just after 1:00 PM.

Xue Dezhang, an official with the municipality's maritime authorities, said since the collision happened two nautical miles from the wharf, the spill was not very serious.

"Luckily, the tide had ebbed," said a staff worker from a nearby wharf. "The oil dispersed quickly. By three in the afternoon, the strong smell had almost died out."

Authorities were concerned the spill would lead to an explosion, particularly since the collision occurred not far from a river bank where several oil refineries are located. River and tap water pollution were also serious concerns.

Cleanup teams spent more than four hours removing all of the fuel from the tanker, and then cleaned up a 20-meter-long stretch of oil spill.

"Gasoline evaporates very quickly under the sun," said an unidentified maritime official. "The gas vapors are very dangerous in terms of igniting explosions."

Nearly 100 firefighters and at least seven fire engines were on emergency standby.

Firefighters continually sprayed the air with water to dilute gas fumes, and police cordoned off a one-kilometer area around the dock.

Pedestrians walking past the area were told to turn off electronic devices to avoid creating sparks.

Several witnesses said when the ship first arrived at the dock they could hardly breathe because the air was filled with a strong smell of gasoline.

The remaining oil in the tanker was successfully transferred to the oil station early Sunday morning.

In related news, maritime authorities are still looking for a couple from Jiangsu Province that went missing in the river after their small coal vessel collided with a 5,000-ton container ship and capsized on Friday evening.

Authorities said the chances of finding the couple alive were very slim.

(China Daily/Shanghai Daily September 19, 2005)

50-ton Gas Spill Cleaned up
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