The Australian Department of Defence is set to despatch personnel and equipment to the Solomon Islands to help clean up an oil spill caused by the recent grounding of a bulk carrier.
A Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules transport aircraft carrying cleanup gear provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority will depart within the week to assist local oil spill response and salvage teams working to extricate the Hong Kong-flagged Solomon Trader and contain the pollution its grounding had caused.
A Royal Australian Navy vessel is also likely to be deployed with the appropriate equipment to assist in the cleanup.
The government of the Solomon Islands issued the request for assistance after inclement weather had delayed local cleanup and salvage efforts for over two weeks.
The assistance from Australia will help fast-track the cleanup especially now that the weather has begun to improve, an official of the Solomon Islands government has said.
Solomon Trader was loading bauxite in Kangava Bay when it was pushed around by rough seas until it came to rest in shallow waters just off Rennell Island on the night of February 4.
The vessel ended up grounded near East Rennell, the largest raised coral atoll in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site.
The resulting oil spill is said to have stretched out to as far as 600 metres from Solomon Trader. Further, the vessel is reportedly unable to move under its own power and thus needs to be under tow during extrication.
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