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Oil spill

August 1, 2009

A Chinese-owned freighter is leaking oil after running aground off the coast of southern Norway. Officials fear the oil spill could threaten bird sanctuaries and beaches.

A Chinese-owned freighter that ran aground near the town of Langesund in Norway
Authorities fear the oil spill could threaten bird sanctuaries along the coast of NorwayImage: AP

The oil tanker 'Full City' ran aground off the town of Langesund on the Norwegian coast after engine failure in stormy conditions, rescue officials said.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said 16 sailors had been evacuated from the vessel and seven remained on the ship. The entire crew are Chinese nationals.

A spokesman for the Norwegian ministry of coastal affairs Halvard Wensel confirmed the vessel was leaking diesel oil into the surrounding coastal areas.

Wensel said the ship drifted into shallow waters near Langesund while moored during a squall early Friday morning.

It remains unclear how much oil has leaked into the sea.

The spill is threatening the southern Norwegian coast, home to protected seabird colonies. According to the WWF, the accident took place close to the Lille Sastein bird sanctuary.

Arial view of the oil spill
The oil spill is threatening to reach the Olso Fjord and KristiansandImage: AP

Environmental groups warn that wind and current could carry the spill to the nearby town of Larvik and further into the Oslo Fjord and even to the town of Kristiansand some 200 kilometers away.

Norway's wildlife trust has criticized authorities for reacting too late in putting in place a floating oil barrier.

The coast guard, however, said priority had to be given to first saving the 23 crew members. Bad weather conditions continue to hamper the operations.

The 167-meter 'Full City' is registered in Panama. The vessel was carrying some 1,100 tons of fuel oil.

Editor: Sonia Phalnikar