The NATUNA SEA sinking incident occurred on October 3, 2000 on the rock-strewn outcrop of Batu Berhanti in Indonesia when it was headed to Jinzhou, China. The grounding of the NATUNA SEA took place approximately 6NM from the tanker’s manager’s office (Ferguson, 2002). This incident had devastating effects because of the oil spill into the sea, which was nearly 3 years after the EVOIKOS oil spill. Since the occurrence of this incident, the shipping industries in Singapore and Indonesia have embarked on several initiatives to prevent future accidents and their subsequent oil spills. These industries have also been keen in ensuring oil pollution from such incidents are avoided or mitigated. However, there is need for more initiatives to be undertaken by the shipping industry in order to prevent and deal with such incidents in an effective manner.
Brief Description of the Ship
NATUNA SEA was a Panamanian tanker that was carrying approximately 70,000 tonnes of Nile Blend Crude (Heah, 2001). This tanker, 51,095GT/82, 169DWT was built in 1982 and filled with 70,190MT Nile Blend Crude from Marsa Bashayer, North Sudan (Ferguson, 2002). The NATUNA SEA’s P&I insurer was the London Stream-Ship Owner’s Mutual Insurance Association Limited, which is commonly known as The London P&I Club (International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, 2000). This insurer is a member of the International Group of P&I Clubs similar to Japan P&I Club and has existed for a long period of time. NATUNA SEA was among the 30 million GT or approximately 1,000 ships insured by The London P&I Club. Similar to other ships, The London P&I Club insured NATUNA SEA for oil pollution liability and other related liabilities including loss of life and personal injury, wreck removal, cargo liability, and any damages to fixed and floating objects.
Brief Description of the Incident and its Impact
As previously mentioned, the NATUNA SEA incident took place on October 3, 2000 when the ship was heading to Jinzhou, China from the Middle East (De La Rue & Anderson, 2015). At the time of the accident the ship was moving eastward in the Strait of Singapore Traffic Separation Scheme. At around 0615 hours, the ship sank or went ashore at Latitude 01? 11.3’N and Longitude 103? 53.1’E in Batu Berhanti Reef in Indonesian waters. This accident took place approximately eight kilometers from Sentosa, which is a popular island resort in Singapore. According to Ferguson (2002), this incident also occurred nearly “320 meters to south of the southern extremity of the eastbound traffic separation scheme between Singapore and Indonesia.” One of the most interesting aspects of this accident is that it took place nearly 6NM from NATUNA SEA’s managers’ office.
Before the accident, the Panamanian tanker that contained highly viscous crude oil had left Malacca Strait’s west-east lane and was proceeding towards Changi’s moorage in order to load bunker fuel. According to the Centre of Documentation, Research and Experimentation on Accidental Water Pollution (2001), this tanker was grounded when the ship hit a reef that was three meters below the surface of the sea. As a result, a tear in the tanker’s hull caused an oil spill that is estimated to be not less than 10% of the 70,000 tonnes it was carrying.
The occurrence of the NATUNA SEA incident had considerable impacts on the sea, especially in relation to oil spill, which generated numerous concerns in the shipping industry. One of the immediate effects of the NATUNA SEA incident was rupture of several cargo tanks that in turn contributed to the oil spill. When the Panamanian tanker hit the reef before the sea surface, several cargo tanks that were carrying the crude oil were ruptured including 1C, 2C, 3C, 1S, and 3S (Ferguson, 2002). However, none of the 32 crew in the ship was injured while the tanker was relatively stable. Additionally, when this incident occurred, the traffic flow in Strait of Singapore Traffic Separation Scheme was not affected.
The second and most devastating impact of the NATUNA SEA incident was an oil spill that spread very fast due to the strong tidal streams in the Strait (Heah, 2001). While there was an immediate response from different stakeholders in the shipping industry including the ship’s Managing Director and Manager’s staff, an oil spill of approximately 7,000 tonnes occurred. The oil spread rapidly while breaking up in several slicks as it was carried by strong tide and wind in the Strait. These various slicks from the oil spread ended up affecting Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean waters in different degrees. The responding authorities attempted to address the oil spill using booms and 37 boats in the recovery operations. However, these efforts were seemingly futile given the rapid spread of the oil and its decomposition into several slicks. Some of the areas that were affected by the rapid spread of the oil and its slicks included Singapore’s tourist beach, Sentosa and Indonesian coastal portions in Batam Island. The futility of the recovery operations in preventing the rapid spread of the oil was fueled by difficulties in identifying the most suitable equipment for handling the high viscosity oil at sea. Additionally, the recovery operations were complicated by the nature of the oil itself, which in turn contributed to its rapid spread and effect on surrounding waters.
Singapore has one of the busiest ports across the world since it is an island nation that is located at the cross-roads of major shipping lanes (Heah, 2001). Actually, Singapore has the second-busiest port in the world and contains heavily travelled shipping lanes (Sea…