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Collision between two vessels causes massive oil spill off Singapore coast: 'Sudden loss in engine and steering control'

The incident highlights why avoiding the use of dirty fuel to power marine vessels is so important.

The incident highlights why avoiding the use of dirty fuel to power marine vessels is so important.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Pristine beaches in Singapore have been turning black following an accident at sea, and a huge clean-up operation is underway to deal with the problem.

What happened?

As The Washington Post reported, a ship flagged to the Netherlands struck a stationary vessel at the Pasir Panjang port in southern Singapore. The Vox Maxima dredger reported a "sudden loss in engine and steering control" before impact.

Although thankfully no one was harmed, Singapore's Strait Times reported that around 441 tons of low-sulfur fuel was leaked into the sea almost immediately.

Tidal currents have hastened the spread of the spill, with oil reaching Sentosa, Labrador Nature Reserve, Southern Islands, Marina South Pier, and East Coast Park in southern Singapore. Some oil had even been reported in Changi in eastern Singapore, which is 16 miles away from Sentosa.

Why is this oil spill concerning?

Several beaches have been forced to close to the public, preventing residents and visitors to the area from swimming or participating in other water sports through safety concerns. 

Thankfully, "no significant wildlife casualties" have been recorded so far, according to the Post and the Straits Times. However, the impact on aquatic creatures might take some time to be fully understood.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, oil spills can harm sea creatures, and humans could experience the knock-on effects. Should fish and sea mollusks ingest toxic fuels, these harmful chemicals could then be found in seafood. 

What's being done about the oil spill?

In a statement shared by the Post, the Sentosa Development Corporation government agency announced it had deployed 100 trained workers to affected beaches to deal with the clean-up, while hundreds more people have been volunteering. 

Officials released chemicals to break up oil droplets and deployed equipment to remove floating spills from the water's surface, the Post reported. Meanwhile, around 1,500 meters (about 1,640 yards) of floating barriers have been put around the stricken vessel to minimize the spread of oil. 

The incident highlights why avoiding the use of dirty fuel to power marine vessels is so important not only to limit the release of planet-warming pollution but also to eliminate the risk of harmful oil spills.

That's why some companies are looking at alternative options for sustainable sea transportation. In Kochi, India, a new water-based metro service has been launched, transporting passengers between islands using electric-hybrid boats.

The Norwegian government has also announced plans for hydrogen-powered ferries that will connect the town of Bodø to islands in the Lofoten Archipelago.

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