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Oil tanker crashes into jetty off Sihanoukville

Rescue officials survey the damage to a jetty that was broken after a Tela oil tanker crashed into it off Sihanoukville yesterday. Photo supplied
Rescue officials survey the damage to a jetty that was broken after a Tela oil tanker crashed into it off Sihanoukville yesterday. Photo supplied

Oil tanker crashes into jetty off Sihanoukville

One man is missing and presumed dead, and there are concerns about an oil slick of unknown size after a tanker delivering oil to Kampuchea Tela crashed into a jetty belonging to the company at Sihanoukville.

The 100-metre-wide docking platform and about 80 metres of jetty at the end of the 1,200-metre-long structure were destroyed after being struck by the Vietnamese tanker at about 4pm on Tuesday.

Preah Sihanouk provincial police deputy chief Kol Phaly said “many” port workers were rescued from the water by the crew of the tanker.

However, one security guard, Sem Vannak, 18, who lived in a post on the platform, disappeared when it and other structures fell into the sea.

“As of 3pm on Wednesday, the victim has not been found yet,” said Phaly. “In the meantime, our authorities are interrogating the crews and workers about the incident.

“It is the first time that such an incident has happened in Cambodia,” he added.

Workers interviewed by the police said the oil tanker had been attempting to unload oil at the facility, located about 10km north of the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, when the ship ran into the platform without slowing down, said Stung Hav district police chief Ros Key.

They said they had not yet determined what caused the accident.

Following the incident, the tanker dropped anchor at sea, where several smaller boats began unloading its cargo of oil.

Some oil had spilled from the jetty’s broken pipes and could be seen floating on the water, but Key could not estimate how much.

“The technical experts and a company representative have not cooperated to answer about the incident yet since they claimed that they were busy discussing the details of the incident and the scale of the damage with the insurance company,” said Key. “The ship’s Vietnamese captain just said that it was caused by strong winds.”

He added that when the police went to the site, the air on the beach was still, though they detected some wind about 200 metres offshore.

“But the location of the accident was more than 1,200 metres from the beach, so I am not sure whether there was strong wind there or not,” he said.

Yesterday, Preah Sihanouk governor Yun Min said experts should investigate thoroughly to find the cause of the accident.

He said the experts should also clean up the leaked oil, because it could impact on the environment and marine life.

Headed by Chhun On, Tela was founded as Kandal Import Export (Kadimex) in 1993, and became Tela in 1995.

According to the company’s website, the Sihanoukville sea port terminal was commissioned in 2006, with a standard jetty and operations platform allowing ships weighing from 500 to 5,000 tonnes to dock.

Tela representative Muek Sitha hung up on a Post reporter when reached by phone yesterday.

A previous version of this article used the term "Kampuchea Tela tanker". The tanker is owned by a Vietnamese company and was delivering oil to Kampuchea Tela.

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