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The government will begin removing the remaining oil in the bow section of a wrecked Russian tanker as soon as possible, Transport Minister Makoto Koga said Jan. 14. The government, in its second meeting to deal with the spill from the Russian tanker Nakhodka, which sank northeast of the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture, approved ways to extract the oil remaining in the bow section, which drifted and ran aground near the shore of Mikuni, Fukui Prefecture.Following the government’s decision, workers in Mikuni started preparing to remove the oil from the bow. “The current condition may trigger a serious disaster, and we must step up our efforts to remove oil from the bow section of the tanker as soon as possible,” Koga said after the meeting. Every time the bow sways with the tide, oil leaks out, he said.The Maritime Safety Agency and other authorities have reported that about 6,600 kiloliters of oil have been retrieved so far in Ishikawa, Fukui, Kyoto, Hyogo, Tottori and Shimane prefectures. In Fukui Prefecture alone, 2,733 kiloliters have been collected. The MSA has increased the number of patrol boats and aircraft monitoring the spill.According to the government’s plan, the bow will be surrounded by three barges, three crane-carrying ships and three tugboats, and the oil will be extracted from the holes drilled in the bow through pipes off the crane ships. The oil will be collected on the barges. The work is expected to take three to four days, Koga said. The government at the same time will start building a 120-meter-long breakwater at a point about 250 meters off the coast of Mikuni and will construct a temporary road over it to allow trucks to get close to the bow section.The plan is a backup in case the first one fails due to bad weather. The government will stop building the breakwater and road once the remaining oil is successfully extracted from the bow, MSA head Yasutoshi Tsuchisaka said.To check the stern section of the tanker, which sank off the Oki Islands and lies at a depth of about 1,800 meters, the Science and Technology Agency will dispatch a ship and the Deep Tow submersible observation device, Koga said. The Deep Tow carries video recorders and sonar that can be used at a depth of up to 4,000 meters, according to the agency.

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