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Oil spill alert in Brittany

In the early hours of 8 October, a chemical tanker YM Uranus collided with a bulk tanker some 100km southwest of the island of Ouessant, off the Brittany coast. At the time of the incident, in addition to an unreported amount of bunker fuel, the Uranus was carrying a cargo of 6000 tonnes of pygas solvent, a type of heavy gasoline. Although a lighter type of oil (and therefore less persistent once spilled), this type of product can still pose a risk to seabirds through interfering with feather waterproofing and causing skin burns or irritation.

After evacuating the vessel’s crew and assessing the damage, the French Maritime Authorities begun to tow the vessel to Brest for repairs. In the meantime, Sea Alarm contacted several wildlife response NGOs and veterinary associations in France to gather more information on the incident and ascertain whether any oiled birds or other animals had yet been found. This was not the case but the risk remained significant for a highly sensitive area for wildlife at that time of year. The vessel was eventually towed into Brest without suffering any loss of cargo or bunker oil. Sea Alarm also took this opportunity to run a notification exercise, alerting its network of European responders via a special password protected website containing information on the incident.

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