HFO Spill at Port of Rotterdam Could Take Several Days, Maybe Weeks to Cleanup

bow jubail
The 37,499 dwt MT Bow Jubail is managed by Odfjell Management AS and registered in Norway. Photo provided by Odfjell

The initial clean up of a large heavy fuel oil spill at the port of Rotterdam after a tanker struck a jetty over the weekend is expected to last several more days, the Port of Rotterdam Authority said Monday.

The oil has already impacted dozens of ships and closed portions of the port to ship traffic.

The Port of Rotterdam Authority said in an update that its top priority remains cleaning contaminated ships and the water in the port so that port operations can resume as normal.

An estimated 217 metric tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) leaked into the water after the chemical tanker Bow Jubail struck a jetty while maneuvering to its assigned berth for loading on Saturday. The allision ruptured the hull and a fuel tank on board.

The incident took place at about 14:30 local time at Derde Petroleumhaven, located in the Botlek area of the Port of Rotterdam

The source of the spill has been contained.

The cleanup operation is being coordinated by the Port of Rotterdam Authority and the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (RWS).

The Port Authority reported Monday that of the more than 200 tonnes of HFO was leaked, around 100 tonnes has already been recovered.

Maritime services company Hebo has deployed six emergency oil spill vessels to help with the cleanup.

Full Coverage: Bow Jubail HFO Spill 

Oil booms have also been put in place to prevent the further spread of the oil, however, traces of oil has been observed on the water from Hoek van Holland to Spijkenisse bridge and to the Benelux tunnel. Most of the oil is in the Derde Petroleumhaven, the Port Authority said.

Several oil-soaked birds have also been reported. 

Position of MT Bow Jubail as of June 25, 2018. Image credit MarineTraffic.com

A ship wash facility has been operational since Sunday in the Geulhaven area to clean more than 50 affected inland vessels. Three ships had already been cleaned as Monday at 1 p.m.

A second ship wash facility for sea-going vessels will be opened at buoy 66 in the Botlek area later Monday and will clean 15 contaminated ships in total.

The 3rd Petroleumhaven and Geulhaven have been closed off to traffic since the weekend. Sailing into and out of the area is only allowed with the permission of the Harbour Master.

While initial clean up is expected to last days, it could be ‘several weeks’ before the entirety of oil spill is cleaned up.

“Once the port water and the ships have been cleaned, the cleaning of the contaminated port infrastructure, such as the jetties, the embankments, quays and the slopes will be tackled. This work will also be carried out by Hebo and is expected to take at least several weeks,” the Port of Rotterdam Authority said in an update on Monday.

The 37,499 dwt chemical tanker is managed by Odfjell Management AS and registered in Norway.

The tanker is insured by the P&I club GARD who has also mobilized resources, Odfjell said in a statement on Sunday.

“Odfjell regrets the unfortunate incident and takes this matter very seriously,” Odfell said. “Together with GARD, Odfjell cooperates closely with Dutch Authorities to ensure that necessary resources are available in taking the required actions and mitigate consequences of the oil spill.”

“We have established an Incident Investigation Team to identify the root causes. The team will also cooperate with the Authorities to establish relevant facts,” the company added. 

The Port of Rotterdam Authority said it holding the owner of the tanker liable.