Work to remove a grounded cargo ship from a reef in the waters in the Galápagos Islands commenced Monday almost 2 weeks after the vessel ran aground, sparking fears of an environmental catastrophe in the fragile ecosystem.
According to a statement from Ecuador’s Environment Ministry, efforts are now underway to refloat the MV Galapaface I, which ran aground on the morning of May 9th off the rocky coast San Cristóbal, the easternmost island of the famed archipelago, as it was departing Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
By May 11th, crews were successful in offloading approximately 19,000 gallons of diesel from the ship. The ship was also carrying over one thousand tons of cargo, according to the Environment Ministry, which remains onboard the vessel.
The incident forced Ecuador to declare an environmental emergency in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which served to free up the necessary resources to salvage the vessel and minimize any environmental impact.
“Environmentally, the biggest challenge we had with the stranding of the vessel was [removing the fuel],” said Lorena Tapia, Minister of Environment.
A coordinated effort to monitor the marine ecosystem in order identify potential impacts is ongoing.
The chain of volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador has been a designated a Unesco World Heritage site since 1978.