Moscow offers help as oil spreads

Oil from a wrecked Russian tanker has spread to shorelines in five prefectures along the Sea of Japan coast and may be heading east beyond the Noto Peninsula to Toyama Prefecture, the Maritime Safety Agency said Jan. 9.The Russian government meanwhile offered to cooperate with Japan in collecting the fuel oil spilled from the tanker, the Foreign Ministry said Jan. 9. Moscow informed Japan through diplomatic channels that it is willing to provide vessels and equipment to help retrieve the oil, the ministry said, adding that Japan is ready to accept the Russian offer.Tottori is the latest prefecture whose shores have been hit by oil slicks from the tanker Nakhodka. Oil had earlier reached the shores of Fukui, Ishikawa, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures. Municipal officials and members of fishery cooperatives in Kaga, Ishikawa Prefecture, started cleaning up the spill Jan. 9, while the local MSA office sent patrol boats to help in the removal efforts.Oil from the Nakhodka was also spotted along the coast in Kasumi, Takeno and Toyooka, all in Hyogo Prefecture, as well as in Kumihama, Amino and Tango, in Kyoto Prefecture. The Moscow offer to help came from the Russian Transport Ministry’s ocean pollution prevention department, which informed the Maritime Safety Agency earlier this week that it is arranging to dispatch a Russian ship to help Japan fight the slicks, Japanese officials said.Tokyo meanwhile sent a Transport Ministry ship to join the cleanup in Wakasa Bay around the Tango Peninsula in Kyoto Prefecture, ministry officials said.According to Hyogo Prefecture’s Tajima Fisheries Office, slicks several meters in diameter were washing ashore at ports and beaches in Kasumi and Takeno. “We are seriously concerned that the spill will not only damage farms of edible seaweed but will also affect visitor turnout at beaches in the summer,” said Kasumi Mayor Yukio Aoyama, who inspected coastal areas of the town with fishery co-op members.Kumihama officials said there is a 4- to 5-meter-wide slick extending about 6 km along the coast, and balls of oil ranging from 50 cm in diameter to the size of a thumb have washed ashore.In Mikuni, Fukui Prefecture, local officials and fisheries contingents stepped up efforts to remove oil from the beaches and coastal waters, while local MSA patrol boats continued spraying chemicals in a bid to prevent the damage from spreading. A special MSA squad started installing a 300-meter oil fence along the east side of the tanker’s bow section to prevent the spilled fuel from spreading further, an MSA official said.Since the bow ran aground along the coast Jan. 7, bad weather and rough seas have hampered the agency’s efforts to deal with oil spreading from the broken vessel, he said. Still, the oil was continuing to spread east along the coastline of Echizen and beyond, the agency official said. A diving ranger unit from the agency has been given the green light to examine the bottom of the bow section.Once divers succeed in examining conditions of the sunken part of the bow, local governments will be able to use the data to work out a plan for removing the section and thousands of kiloliters of fuel contained in it, he said. The 13,157-ton Nakhodka, carrying fuel oil from China to Russia, broke up Jan. 2 in stormy seas in the Sea of Japan. The bow of the ship drifted and ran aground Jan. 7 near Mikuni.