Diesel ship sinks off Tunisia risking ‘environmental disaster’
On Friday evening, a ship transporting 750 tonnes of gasoline from Egypt to Malta encountered difficulties due to inclement weather.
A tanker carrying 750 tonnes of diesel fuel from Egypt to Malta crashed in the Gulf of Gabes off Tunisia's southeast coast, prompting a scramble to avoid a spill.
The Equatorial Guinea-flagged Xelo was sailing from the Egyptian port of Damietta to Malta on Friday evening when it requested access to Tunisian seas due to adverse weather.
“The ship sank this morning in Tunisian territorial waters. For the moment, there is no leak,” local court spokesman Mohamed Karray said.
A disaster prevention committee would meet in the coming hours “to decide on the measures to be taken”, he added.
The tanker is 58 meters long and 9 meters wide, according to the ship monitoring website vesseltracker.com.
An unmitigated disaster
According to a Tunisian environment ministry statement, the ship began taking on water around seven kilometers offshore in the Gulf of Gabes, and the engine room was inundated.
It said Tunisian authorities evacuated the seven-member crew.
The environment minister, Leila Chikhaoui, was on her way to Gabes "to assess the situation... and take essential preventive measures in conjunction with regional authorities," according to the government.
Authorities had activated “the national emergency plan for the prevention of marine pollution intending to bring the situation under control and avoid the spread of pollutants”.
The Georgian captain, four Turks, and two Azerbaijanis were momentarily hospitalized for checks and are presented in a hotel, according to Karray.
The defense, interior, transport, and customs ministries were working to avoid “a marine environmental disaster in the region and limit its impact”, the environment ministry said.
Before the ship sank, the situation was described as “alarming” but “under control”.
It is worth noting that the Gulf of Gabes was originally a fishing area, but campaigners claim it has been contaminated by phosphate processing factories located near Gabes.