(DF) Bulgaria Takes in Its Own Hands Rescue of Stranded Panamanian-flagged Ship with Fertilizers

September 26 (BTA) – Bulgaria takes in its own hands the rescue of a Panamanian-flagged ship carrying fertilizers, which ran aground in the Black Sea off the shore of Kamen Bryag five days ago. This transpired from an order by Transport Minister Hristo Alexiev issued on Sunday and made public by his Ministry. The spot where Vera Su is stranded, is a protected area and part of the EU-wide network of protected sites Natura 2000. Earlier in the day, Environment and Water Minister Assen Lichev said in a position circulated by his Ministry, that the owner and insurer of the vessel are responsible for refloating it but if they fail to act, the Maritime Executive Agency should step in and start a rescue operation, and then claim the cost for the operation from the owner/insurer. The Vera Su carries 3,300 t of urea and 20 t of fuel for the nearby port of Varna. It ran into coastal cliffs when it failed to take a turn and go into a navigation corridor for large vessels. The authorities said that inspections have found no leak of fuel or fertilizers. Last Friday, however, the environemntal Facebook group Save Koral published aerial photos which they believe to show a leak from the ship. On September 25, a diver went in to inspect the vessel and said that he saw ruptures from the collision with the cliffs on the hull and that water samples he took showed there was a leak of ammonia fertilizers. Later the same day the local environmental authorities took more samples of the water but the results are not out yet. The maritime authorities said last week that the ship will have to be unloaded – at least half of the cargo – to move it, but as it is too close to the shore for another ship to be used in the operation, other ways are being sought to do that. It transpires from the Transport Ministry’s order that On September 23 the ship’s owner declared an emergency and suggested dumping some of the urea into the sea. The Bulgarian authorities issued a ban on dumping any part of the ship’s cargo and demanded that the owner present a feasible plan for unloading the urea. Considering the owner’s failure so far to take any steps to refloat the ship and the expected worsening of the weather from September 27, the Transport Minister Sunday ordered the Maritime Administration to take immediate action and take the Vera Su to a port. He also ordered that the ship and cargo be impounded to make sure Bulgaria’s cost for the operation will be covered. Marine ecologist Dr Dimiter Berov of the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Studies with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences told dnevnik.bg that it is important to deal with the crisis fast because a leak of fertilizers would cause a serious and lasting loss of ecosystems in the Black Sea.