Abandoned vessels sitting off rock islands.

A plan is underway to remove the sunken fishing vessel sitting off of the BT&T wharf in Malakal, says the Environmental Quality Protection Board (EQPB). Concerns were raised earlier in the month that the sunken vessel was leaking fuel into the water, but according to the EQPB, the engine has been removed, minimizing the threat of dangerous chemical leakage.
The fishing vessel Legabil, which sunk on July 11, belongs to the Kuniyoshi Fishing Company (KFC). Prior plans had been made to refloat the vessel by the KFC and Surangel&Sons Construction, but Ms. Roxanne Blesam, Executive Officer for the EQPB, says that refloating the vessel is not a long-term solution.
“Even if we can refloat the ship, it’s not at a stage where it will stay afloat,” Ms. Blesam said. “It could very easily sink again. Which is why we need to take it out completely and have it compacted.”
Doing this involves bringing a crane to the site to tow the wreck from the ocean. But Ms. Blesam explained that, at the moment, the wharf is a high-traffic area, first with the Koa Moana Task Force reception on August 14, and later with incoming cargo carriers. The estimated date for the removal is sometime mid-August.
The hazard which this wreck and other abandoned ships are posing to the environment of Koror has been a major concern to many members of the community, as expressed in a letter from Ngiraibelas Tmetuchl, the Chairman of the Palau Visitors Authority (PVA), to the EQPB, which mentioned “vessels that are rusting and sinking” which are “likely leaking fuel, oil, grease and other fluids into our waters”. However, Ms. Blesam stated that the absence of an engine in the Legabil wreck greatly reduces this risk of contamination.
“Thankfully, there is no engine remaining in the wreck,” said Ms. Blesam, “which means that there is no fuel leaking into the ocean. That would be the major environmental hazard for a sunken vessel.”
She explained that right now, monitoring efforts by the EQPB entail checking on debris from the wreck, which could drift and pollute the waters. The Legabil has also been fastened with a chain to the dock, and the KFC has agreed to keep personnel stationed at the site.
The letter from the PVA also referred to wrecked vessels in other places of Koror, such as “near the Chandelier Cave” and “in the cove off of the Malakal Quarry”. Ms. Blesam asserted that the EQPB is currently taking action to minimize environmental impact of these wrecks, such as controlling spillage of fuel into the ocean.
She also said that work is being done to track down ownership of these vessels.
“The good thing about Palau is the capability of contractors to take responsibility of wrecked vessels and dispose of them,” she said. “But the challenge is always locating the owner.”

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