Russian navy takes blame for oil slick off coast

Tue, Feb 24, 2009, 00:00

THE RUSSIAN navy has admitted responsibility for an oil spill off the south coast just over 10 days ago.

It has also expressed “extreme regret”, and has informed the Irish Coast Guard that this was the first time such an incident occurred in another state’s waters.

A high-level Russian military delegation which met Irish Coast Guard officials in Dublin yesterday said it was undertaking a “root and branch” review.

The Irish Coast Guard believes the cost of monitoring the slick amounted to €250,000, which the Russian Federation may contribute towards. This will depend on bilateral discussions between the Russian Federation and the Government.

Due to good weather over the past fortnight the slick is believed to be dispersing, and is unlikely to cause any serious risk to Irish Sea coasts.

The Russian military delegation told the Irish Coast Guard that the incident may have occurred when bilges were inadvertently pumped out 80km southeast of Fastnet Rock.

The Russian navy’s flagship, the 46,000 tonne Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, was refuelling in the area, and was accompanied by a tanker and a tug.

The fleet is currently returning home via the north Irish coast.

It is believed the slick consisted of about 300 tonnes of oil waste. Laboratory tests have confirmed that it is a light crude oil.

The Irish Coast Guard expressed disappointment that notification of the pollution incident had not been made earlier as earlier notification would have facilitated spraying and reduced potential risk.

The Russian delegation is due to address today the inter-departmental environmental response group which was established in response to the spill.

Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds said he accepted the delegation’s explanation.

The environmental organisation Coastwatch has criticised a lack of information on pollution response plans by local authorities. Its spokeswoman, Karin Dubsky, said the Government was “very lucky with the weather”.

It is understood that Wexford has almost completed its oil pollution response plan as required by law.

However, neither Waterford nor Cork have completed their strategies for assessment.