News / Asia

Thai Offshore Oil Spill Prompts Warning from Environmentalists, Engineers

Thai soldiers wearing biohazard suits take part as cleaning operations continue at Ao Prao Beach on Koh Samet, Rayong, July 31, 2013.
Thai soldiers wearing biohazard suits take part as cleaning operations continue at Ao Prao Beach on Koh Samet, Rayong, July 31, 2013.
Ron Corben
Environmentalists and engineers say the Thai government needs to improve the safety of the country's offshore oil industry after a rig in the Gulf of Thailand released tens of thousands of liters of oil that has since washed up on popular beaches. As The spill has triggered wider concerns as foreign and local companies look to step up investments in offshore oil in the region.
 
Thailand is still weighing the cost five days after after 50,000 liters of oil leaked into the Gulf of Thailand while being transferred from an offshore platform some 20 kilometers out to sea.
 
The eight kilometer long spill has already reached the resort island of Koh Samet and is moving towards the Thai mainland near Rayong province.

Thailand’s Marine Department has lodged a police complaint against the pipeline operator while Thai officials called for efforts to clean up the slick, with experts called in from Singapore to assist.

Pipeline operator PTT Global Chemical said the leak was quickly closed off and efforts are now focused on the cleanup. The operator is a subsidiary of Thailand’s largest fossil fuel group, the state-linked PTT, with global assets of over $45 billion.

Although PTT has assured resort operators on Koh Samet the slick will be cleaned up within days, Thailand's tourism and fisheries industries are still calculating the damage. The cost to the tourism industry along has been estimated at $70 million.

But Sutichai Kumworachai, an analyst with Kim Eng Securities, said it may take weeks before the full cost is known and he expects the government to now toughen regulations governing the oil industry. “What I expect is that in the future the regulation for this matter might be more strict than what we have right now, but I believe the operator or oil refiner would be OK to do so [comply],” Eng noted.

Sutichai said companies may be required to set aside emergency funds for such incidents and pay close attention to the longer term environmental impact.

Environmental group, Greenpeace South East Asia program manager, Ply Pirom, is skeptical of PTT claims that the oil clean-up will be quick and is calling for more details on the degree of damage to the environment. “From what happened we can say that this is a good example and alarming to the Thai Government that we are not ready for such an incident.   Especially if you look at PTT Company which is one of the leading companies in Thailand and globally also, they are seen to not be really well-prepared for such an incident,” said Pirom.

Greenpeace has called on the Thai government to review its energy policy and dependence on fossil fuels and end oil drilling and exploration in the Gulf of Thailand.

Environmental Engineering Association of Thailand (EEAT) president Prasert Tapaneeyangkul, said oil companies need to address procedural shortcomings and limit human errors. “Engineering mitigation measures are very important, they have to be very seriously abided by otherwise this (crisis) will occur again and again. Most of the time it’s not from the engineering design but by human error so that is one of the most important things that this human error first of all must be eliminated,” he stated.

In 2009, an oil spill and gas leak by a PTT subsidiary in the Montara oil field in the Timor Sea took 74 days to plug. It is considered one of Australia’s worst oil disasters.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs