Officials: Oil Firms Must Buy Spill Cleanup Equipment

Petroleum companies must purchase equipment to contain oil spills at sea or they will be fined and their ships may be banned from Cambodian ports, officials said Tuesday.

“We will stop them if we know that a ship is spilling oil into the sea,” said Chan Dara, director gen­eral of the transport department for the Merchant Marines.

“We are worried that if a ship crashes into another ship or crashes into the port it will pollute the sea or river,” he added.

On Tuesday, officials from the country’s seven petroleum companies, government officials and dozens of shipping company representatives met in Phnom Penh to find ways to protect Cambo­dian seas from oil spills. All of the country’s petroleum is imported, mostly via oil tankers.

To clean up oil spills at sea, oil companies use different types of equipment. A common practice is to use an oil containment boom, which is essentially a floating barrier that surrounds and concentrates the oil. An oil skimmer, us­ually attached to a vacuum system, then skims the water’s surface and sucks up the oil.

It remains unclear how many petroleum importers have the oil spill cleanup equipment.

An official at PTT, a Thai petroleum company, said it already has the protection equipment and is not worried about oil leaking into the sea.

Sokimex, which in the past has had close business dealings with the ruling CPP and is the largest Cambodian petroleum company, said Tuesday it soon plans to purchase the equipment.

“We could spend a million dollars to purchase boom equipment,” said Sorn Sokna, vice president at Sokimex. “Our company is trying to set it up as soon as possible.”

Officials at other petroleum companies here, which include Shell, Tela, Petronas, Caltex and Total, could not be contacted Tues­day.

Lou Kim Chhun, director general of Sihanoukville port, said he has never seen an oil spill in Cam­bodian waters, but that the country would face a big loss if it did.

Chan Dara said “it is in their own interest” for petroleum companies to purchase the equipment and lauded the environmental benefits that would come as a result.


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