Singapore, Malaysia stage chemical spill exercise

Singapore, Malaysia stage chemical spill exercise

Singapore's maritime agency and its Malaysian counterpart yesterday conducted their first-ever joint chemical spill exercise at sea, in the Strait of Johor.

The exercise was meant to enhance both sides' preparedness to tackle accidents that involve hazardous chemicals being transported along the channel between the two countries, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the National Environment Agency in a statement yesterday.

It simulated a spill of 100 tonnes of the petrochemical xylene in Singapore waters, and tested communication and coordination between Malaysia and Singapore, personnel movement, and whether equipment was available, among other things.

While Singapore's chemical industry is mainly located on Jurong Island to the south and west, there are chemical plants at Pasir Gudang in Malaysia along the Johor Strait.

And last week, Malaysia's state oil and gas company Petronas confirmed that it would build a refining and petrochemicals project at Pengerang in Johor, at the eastern end of the Johor Strait, and this would start operating by 2019.

Should a spill occur, the MPA will monitor and coordinate clean-up operations at sea while the NEA will monitor air and water quality while coordinating clean-up efforts on any affected shore areas, the agencies said.

MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said: "Regional cooperation is important as incidents at sea resulting in chemical and oil spills are often transboundary in nature. This is the first bilateral exercise we have conducted to tackle a chemical spill at sea.

"Such an exercise allows us to test regional and multi-agency response capabilities so that we are ever ready and well prepared to respond swiftly and effectively to any maritime accidents, be it a collision, chemical leak or oil spill."

Since 1998, the MPA has conducted several chemical spill exercises both in the field and on paper, to deal with chemicals such as xylene, toluene and benzene. These highly flammable chemicals are used as solvents and as feedstocks for other processes.

The clean-up methods, such as skimming chemicals off the surface of water or pumping pollutants up from the seabed, depend on whether the chemicals evaporate, float, dissolve or sink.

caiwj@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 10 in The Straits Times.

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