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WATER WORLD
Climate 'catastrophe' looms in Pacific: Marshall Islands
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Aug 01, 2013


Oil spill in Indonesia after tanker crash
Ternate, Indonesia / Indonesia (AFP) Aug 01, 2013 - An oil tanker carrying millions of litres of fuel has crashed in eastern Indonesia, spilling some of its cargo into an area of rich marine biodiversity, energy company Pertamina said Thursday.

Workers had been transferring petrol and diesel from the MT Patriot Andalan to a tugboat in port at the island of Ternate in the Maluku chain when strong waves pushed the vessel onto a jetty head and other port structures.

The boat, which was carrying seven million litres of fuel, was damaged in several places and diesel was leaking into the sea from a broken compartment, said state-run Pertamina in a statement.

The company declined to say how much oil had been spilled after the accident late Tuesday, but an AFP reporter on the island said the slick had reached the shore some 100 metres (330 feet) away.

He said a team of some 20 people could be seen attempting to contain the spill.

The Maluku island chain is part of the Coral Triangle, a vast area that covers six Asia-Pacific nations and is home to nearly 30 percent of the world's reefs.

Known as the "Amazon of the seas", the triangle is home to six of the world's seven marine turtle species and 2,000 species of reef fish, according to conservation group WWF.

The fuel was being transported for Pertamina and the tanker had been chartered by the company, although a spokesman said it did not own the vessel.

Bagus Handoko, a local Pertamina spokesman, said that the tanker had travelled from the resource-rich Papua region.

"Pertamina is taking several steps to deal with the disaster, including coordination with local authorities to ensure safety for those cleaning up the oil in order to fire," the company statement said.

"Pertamina has deployed divers to check the mooring buoys and repair any leaks in the ship to prevent more spillage."

The Marshall Islands has warned of a Pacific "climate catastrophe" that will wipe it off the map without decisive action on global warming, saying the next 12 months are critical.

Tony de Brum, minister in assistance to the Marshall Islands' president, is in Australia making the case for a major climate declaration at the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum it will host in September which he has insisted US Secretary of State John Kerry must attend.

De Brum hopes the so-called Majuro Declaration can be presented to the United Nations General Assembly to help renew global efforts on emissions reduction as the Pacific region confronts rising seas and growing numbers of so-called climate refugees.

"Our hosting of the forum comes at the cusp of the most important geopolitical period for the region since World War II," de Brum told reporters at a briefing in Sydney Thursday, adding the next 12 months "are critical to addressing climate change".

"Business as usual will lead to a climate catastrophe and time is running out.

"We feel very strongly that if (Kerry) does not attend it would be a slap in the face and like the United States would be reversing its so-called pivot to the Pacific," he added.

De Brum said the tiny Pacific atoll of 55,000 people, which stands at an average of just two metres above sea level, was already feeling the impacts of global warming with an unprecedented seven-month drought in the north and a devastating king tide earlier this year triggering disaster declarations.

"During my lifetime I have seen an island in the lagoon of Majuro atoll, the capital centre of the Marshall Islands, disappear from the surface of the Earth," he said.

"We do not have scientists measuring this that and the other, we have experienced first-hand the effects of climate change... It is not something that is down the road or at the turn of the century."

De Brum said the Marshalls government was already ferrying food and drinking water to 13 outer island communities due to drought-linked shortages that were threatening the export of copra, the dried-out flesh of coconuts from which oil is extracted, which underpinned its economy.

There had also been a "marked increase" in what he described as climate refugees from neighbouring Kiribati and Tuvalu and he said the government expected similar movements out of the Marshalls itself in coming years, with a two-metre sea level rise predicted by the World Bank before the end of the century.

"This would fundamentally alter the world as we see it and be the end of my country, the end of Kiribati, the end of Tuvalu and many other countries like it."

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