Frigate’s oil spurs seafood warnings

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Oil seeping from the mostly sunken wreckage of the Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad has prompted state food safety agency Mattilsynet to warn against eating seafood caught in the area. Farmed salmon is also being checked for any signs of oil pollution.

Oil pollution containment equipment was placed all around the now mostly sunken wreckage of the frigate Helge Instad, but it hasn’t prevented the frigate’s leaking oil from spreading in turbulent seas. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Jakob Østheim

The warnings were issued Friday amidst plans to raise the stricken warship and transport it to the Haakonsvern naval base in Bergen. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reports that the local mayor fears the salvage operation itself may unleash more oil spillage.

“Local residents are worried about this,” Børge Haugetun told NRK. He’s the mayor of the Øygarden island municipality off Norway’s West Coast where the frigate collided with a tanker last week and then grounded near land. Efforts to secure the vessel failed and now it’s lying mostly submerged in shallow waters.

Oil has been leaking from the frigate, which suffered a large gash on its starboard (right) side during the collision early last Thursday morning, ever since. Special equipment meant to contain oil spills were quickly put into place around the frigate, but haven’t prevented the frigate’s oil from spreading in turbulent seas. Aerial photos have shown oil slicks drifting mostly northwards.

“The oil spill has spread over a large area, and now come the recommendations that we shouldn’t eat shellfish or fish that may have come in contact with it,” Haugetun told NRK. Fishing is a major industry in the area that’s now suffering consequences of the collision along with the Navy.

Naval officials have confirmed that there were 380,000 liters of marine diesel on board the Helge Ingstad, along with 30,000 liters of helicopter fuel. More than half of the latter has leaked from the wreckage.

The tanker, the Sola TS, was fully laden with 625,000 barrels of crude oil bound for Great Britain that it had just loaded at state oil company Equinor’s Sture oil terminal. The tanker suffered only minor damage in the collision, though, and didn’t spill any of its oil.

The food safety agency Mattilsynet has been joined by the state public health institute (Folkehelseinstituttet) and Norway’s ocean research insitute (Havforskningsinstitutt) in warning against consumption of seafood from the area around the frigate. Six fish farming operations north and east of the wreckage in the Hjelte Fjord are undergoing inspections of their fish. Results of the testing will be available in around two weeks.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund