Norwegian Ship Begins Cleanup of Kuwait Waters
Apr. 30, 1991
SHUAIBA PORT, Kuwait (AP) _ In the first cleanup of oil-fouled Kuwaiti coastal waters since the war's end, the Norwegian ship Al-Waasit is taking on more than 1,000 barrels of oil daily.
But while the week-old oil-skimming operation has been successful, at least 500 barrels a day are still leaking into the Persian Gulf from five different sites in Kuwait, the ship's captain, John Andersen, said Tuesday.
More than 3 million barrels were spilled into the gulf during the Persian Gulf War, creating one of the worst slicks ever. Iraqi sabotage caused much of the damage, but the allied bombing campaign also contributed.
The 250-foot Al-Waasit, owned by Norpol and specially designed for its task, is pumping in the oil while moored at the badly damaged Shuaiba Port, near the burning oil wells south of Kuwait City.
Andersen said there is no need to leave the dock yet because the tides bring so much oil, which is four inches thick in some places.
Also, only a narrow channel into the harbor has been cleared of Iraqi mines and it is too dangerous to venture out.
''There's absolutely no infrastructure here,'' said Andersen. ''We've had to improvise everything.''
A small barge with an oil-skimming conveyer belt traverses the harbor to take on the crude, which is brought back to the Al-Waasit for storage.
The Al-Waasit has been collecting just over 1,000 barrels a day and its 10,000-barrel storage containers are almost full, Andersen said.
A Norwegian supertanker is coming from Dubai within days to take the oil from the Al-Waasit, the captain said.
Prior to the Al-Waasit's arrival, there was no cleanup effort in Kuwaiti waters, though the war ended two months ago.
Capt. Ali Haider, who is running the port of Shuabia, said he desperately wants more workers to restore the port, which is littered with debris from war-damaged buildings and the abandoned sandbag encampments of Iraqi soldiers.
With so much of the port destroyed, help will have to come from abroad, Haider said.
''We have very detailed contingency plans (for oil spills),'' said Haider. ''But all our equipment was stolen. The best plans in the world wouldn't do us any good.''
Environmentalists have complained that the Kuwaiti government has made the ecology a low priority despite the overwhelming damage to the land, water and air from the oil spill and the oil well fires.