Gulf spill could affect marine life, shipping

2010-05-04 09:46

The calamitous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has forced the

shutdown of the gulf’s rich fishing grounds and could also spread to the busy

shipping lanes at the mouth of the Mississippi River, tying up cargo


Though a total shutdown of the shipping lanes is unlikely, there

could be long delays if vessels are forced to wait to have their oil-coated

hulls power-washed.

Several river boat pilots said the edge of the oil slick yesterday

was less than 32km off the Southwest Pass, where ships headed to New Orleans

enter the Mississippi.

The latest satellite image of the slick, taken on Sunday night,

indicates that it has actually shrunk since last week, but that only means some

of the oil has gone underwater.

The new image found oil covering about 5 180 square kilometres,

rather than the roughly 8 800 square kilometres observed last Thursday, said

Hans Graber of the University of Miami.

The new image also shows that sizable patches have broken away and

are moving to the north and east, Graber said.

Surface oil wasn’t expected to touch beaches from Mississippi to

the Florida Panhandle before Thursday.

Wind and sea currents have helped to keep

the oil away from points farther west, said Coast Guard Capt Steve Poulin.

Crews have been struggling to stop the more than 757 060 litres a

day spewing from the sea after an offshore drilling platform blew up and sank

last month in a disaster that killed 11 workers.

The accident is the worst US oil spill since the tanker Exxon

Valdez ran aground in Alaska, leaking nearly 42 million litres of crude.


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