SINGAPORE, January 3, 2015 (ENS) – A collision Friday between an oil tanker and a bulk carrier at the eastern end of the Strait of Singapore, where it meets the South China Sea, has spilled thousands of tons of crude oil, threatening white sand beaches and endangered sea turtles in Indonesia.

Early on the morning of January 2, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore received a report that a Libyan-registered oil tanker Alyarmouk had collided with a Singapore-registered bulk carrier Sinar Kapuas in Singapore waters.

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Box indicates approximate location of the oil spill at the eastern end of the Strait of Singapore. (Map courtesy MPA)

The collision occurred about 11 nautical miles northeast of Pedra Branca, an outlying island that is the easternmost point of Singapore.

The Alyarmouk reported that one of her cargo tanks sustained damage. As a result 4,500 metric tonnes (approx. 32,400 barrels) of crude oil were spilled into the Strait of Singapore, according to an estimate by the Alyarmouk’s ship managers, V. Ships UK Ltd.

The Maritime and Port Authority deployed a helicopter to assess the situation.

Two oil spill response companies have been activated to control the spill. The companies have deployed four craft equipped with dispersants, oil booms and skimmers to the site.

The Alyarmouk was en route from Tanjung Pelapas, Malaysia to China, and the Sinar Kapuas was transiting from Hong Kong to Singapore, when the incident occurred, says the MPA.

As part of standard operating procedures for joint oil spill combat in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the Maritime and Port Authority has notified the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities.

The MPA is also working closely with the Indonesian authorities in line with the standard operating procedure for joint oil spill combat in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and has offered its assistance in the containment operations.

The two vessels involved in the collision are currently safely anchored and in stable condition, says the MPA, which has issued navigational broadcasts for ships to navigate with caution when in the vicinity of the incident site.

There is no report of injury, and traffic in the port and in the Strait of Singapore remains unaffected. The Maritime and Port Authority is investigating the cause of the collision.

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Sea turtle on a Bintan beach (Photo courtesy Bintan Turtle Conservation)

The site of the spill is just 18.6 nautical miles north of Bintan, Indonesia, famous for its beautiful white sand beaches and resorts and artisan fishing and boat-building communities.

Oil spill cleanup workers are battling time and tides to keep the oil from threatening the beaches of Bintan and the sea turtles that swim in Bintan waters.

Six of the world’s seven species of sea turtles frequent Indonesian waters; all species are classed as endangered. On the Bintan Resort beaches hawksbill turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata, and green turtles, Chelonia mydas, have been recorded.

A turtle conservation initiative was started at Bintan Resorts in 2004. Villagers as well as visitors participate in the release of hatchlings during the March – September season.

The Research and Development Department and Environmental & Health Division of Bintan Resort conduct patrols to safeguard sea turtle nests, and they are confident that turtle nests will be protected on Bintan and conserved by local villages.