NEA: Avoid oil-slicked beaches at islands

SINGAPORE - People were advised to avoid entering the sea at beaches on Kusu and St John's islands on Tuesday due to an oil slick caused by a ship collision last Thursday.

About 200m of beach on Kusu Island and 100m at St John Island are closed until further notice as the spillage is cleaned up.

Signs have been erected telling people to avoid the area.

The spill occurred after Panama- flagged container ship NYK Themis collided with the AZ Fuzhou barge, at East Keppel Fairway, 4km south of Marina South.

Damage to one of the NYK's bunker tanks resulted in the spillage of bunker fuel.

A National Environment Agency statement advised members of the public to "avoid primary contact activities such as swimming, water-skiing and wakeboarding in the waters affected".

When The Straits Times visited St John's on Tuesday, workers were raking up oil-slicked sand and shovelling it into garbage bags. These were left near the jetty for collection and disposal.

Worker Rajendran Narayanan, 47, said his team of about a dozen men had collected about 1,000 bags of the oily sand. "Last week, sand was blacker. Now much better," he said. Just six men were cleaning up at Kusu Island as the spill was "not so bad there", he added.

Retiree Mohamed Sulih, 63, who lives on St John's Island, said the latest spill is the worst in about a decade.

"There was a small one roughly four years ago, but 10 years ago there was a big one," he said.

"I've not gone fishing for the past week because of the oil. Even if I were to catch any fish I can't eat them."

At Kusu Island, signs of a spillage were minimal. Other than oil coating a sea wall at the affected lagoon, the beach and nearby waters were largely oil-free.

A caretaker at the Da Bo Gong temple there said workers have been cleaning up since Friday.

Sentosa Development Corporation, which manages the Southern Islands, declined to comment on when the oil first reached the islands, when the clean-up commenced, how much it would cost and who is footing the bill.

Mr Koh Piak Huat, director of island operations for Sentosa Leisure Management, said Sentosa's Environmental Management team was "immediately deployed" to clean up the oil slicks.

"Our clean-up efforts are progressing well and we are monitoring the water quality of the affected beaches closely, together with the National Environment Agency, to ensure the beaches are free from oil pollution and safe for public use," he said.

On Tuesday, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, which is coordinating the containment and clean-up of the spillage, said the clean-up efforts have led to "significant improvements to Singapore's port waters, except for minor oil patches in the vicinity of the Southern Islands and a few patches of oil at Pulau Seringat shoreline which are being removed by response craft and personnel".

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