The Tunisian government is confident that the 750-tonne consignment of diesel that went down with the MV Xelo on Friday can be removed before it has chance to cause an environmental disaster.

No leakage of fuel had been reported so far from the Xelo tanker, Minister of Transport, Rabii Mjidi, was quoted as saying on Sunday by official Tunisian news agency TAP.

The Equatorial Guinea-flagged tanker was en route from Damietta, Egypt, to Malta when it requested refuge from rough seas in the Gulf of Gabes, on Tunisia’s south-east coast, late last week.

Tunisian navy divers have secured the vessel before a complicated operation to pump the cargo off the vessel begins this week, to prevent the loss of engine oil from turning into a major spill.

“We are waiting for the weather, winds and swell to improve, to allow divers to check with more certainty the condition of the hull and cargo, and undertake the necessary measures such as bringing the vessel closer to shore in order to secure the cargo, engine oil and everything else,” Tunisia’s environment minister, Leila Chikhaoui said in a TV interview on Sunday.

Chikhaoui said the Tunisian government would demand compensation for the intervention by the Tunisian navy to rescue the crew and secure the cargo, although she did not make clear whether the vessel’s owners, or insurers, would be responsible for any pay-out.

Source: Seatrade Maritime News