Grande America: Third Oil Slick Sighted off France

French authorities have sighted another oil slick originating from the sunken RoRo container ship Grande America in the Bay of Biscay.

Image Courtesy: Marine Nationale

Aerial observations undertaken by the French Navy and Spain’s maritime search and rescue agency on March 16 revealed the presence of a third oil slick near the sinking site, taking up an area of about 5 km2.

Due to difficult weather conditions, the naval forces could not locate the earlier sighted oil slicks, which measured 13 by 7 km and 9 by 7 km, local media said citing Stéphane Doll, director of Centre of Documentation, Research and Experimentation on Accidental Water Pollution (Cedre).

The oil spills, which were about 20 km apart, were said to be moving at a speed of about 30 km per day and could reach the French coast by the middle of this week.

Relevant authorities confirmed that the oil slicks originate from the sunken RoRo’s fuel tanks. Anti-pollution operations, which were launched on March 15, are continuing despite strong winds and rough seas at the site.

Alleged sightings of oil traces on the beach of  Gironde on March 16 were classified as a false alarm, with officials in Gironde saying that the trances had an organic origin and were not related to the sinking.

Grimaldi, the owner of the 1997-built Grande America, earlier informed that the ship had 2,210 vehicles and 365 containers onboard at the time of the incident. Of these, 45 containers were with IMO-classified hazardous cargo, 34 of which were stowed on the weather deck and the rest inside the vessel. The ship also had 2,200 tons of fuel in its bunkers.

Grande America suffered a fire on March 10 while en route from Hamburg to Casablanca, and subsequently developed a worsening starboard list. The vessel sank in the afternoon hours of March 12 in the Bay of Biscay, some 335 km west of the French coast in a water depth of around 4,600 meters. Salvage company Ardent was appointed to provide assistance with the incident.

World Maritime News Staff