The Gambia has acknowledged a heavy fuel oil (HFO) spill in the West Coast Region, seemingly caused by a ruptured pipeline.
The FT Sturla discharged a cargo on May 28, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has said, from 2:30 am to 3:30 am.
The HFO was discharged into an onshore tank owned by Gam Petroleum. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) held an emergency meeting on May 29, with the company’s management.
The authority asked Gam Petroleum officials to explain the circumstances leading to the oil spill. The company has a storage site at Mandinari.
The official agencies reported the fuel depot had received 1,430 tonnes of HFO. The ship, meanwhile, reported the discharge of 1,501 tonnes. Based on this difference, NEA said the spill was 70.87 tonnes of HFO.
NEA went on to blame the spill on a ruptured submerged pipe, which carried the HFO onshore.
The Gambia Environmental Alliance has reported the spill extends into the River Gambia, beyond the initial spill site. The group reported it had reached Pirang, 28 km from the original spill.
We received evidence of the spillage reaching Pirang riverbank, on the coast of Kombo-East. Which is 28KM from Mandinaring depot in the far East. #OilSpillInTheGambia 🇬🇲 https://t.co/Vm6yrOiMhm pic.twitter.com/GsqtywE3gw
— Gambia Environmental Alliance (@AllianceGambia) May 31, 2022
Minister of Petroleum and Energy Abdoulie Jobe visited the scene on May 31. Jobe was only appointed to be minister earlier in May, replacing Fafa Sanyang. One of Jobe’s previous roles was as director general of PURA.
The Gambia uses HFO for power generation, from its onshore plants and the Karpowership offshore.
Gambian President Adama Barrow visited the Mandinari storage depot in early May. The president expressed the government’s “support for the improvement and expansion of the Gam Petroleum fuel storage facility”.
The “viability and security of the fuel depot is a matter of national security and priority hence”, Barrow said at the time.
Barrow’s visit was spurred by fuel shortages in October last year. The government launched an investigation into the causes of the shortage. A report early this year found shortfalls in Gam Petroleum’s stocks at Mandinari, with a shortfall of around $20 million.
As a result, Gam Petroleum’s managing director and operations manager at the depot are currently under trial on eight counts. They have pleaded not guilty.