"Jessica" - Alert !

Wed, 24 Jan 2001

OCHA Situation Report

Oil Spill – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador - 23 January 2001

1. On Wednesday, 17 January the ‘Jessica’, an Ecuadorian-registered ship, ran aground on San Cristobal Island, part of the Galapagos Islands archipelago, 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador (maps attached).

2. Oil began leaking from the grounded ship on Friday, 19 January, when a pipe in the ship’s machine room burst. The situation worsened significantly over the weekend as bad weather and rough seas pounded the hull of the Jessica increasing the rate of escape of
the remaining fuel on board.

3. Although reports vary, indications are that some 650,000 litres (144,000 gallons) of both fuel oil and bunker C (a heavier oil) of the total 900,000 litres on board have leaked out.

4. On Sunday, 21 January, the Government of Ecuador made an international appeal for assistance in responding and mitigating the environmental impacts from the spill.

5. An 11-person strike team from the US Coast Guard, including 1 oil spill expert, arrived on Sunday with specialized equipment including boom, floating nets, skimming equipment and high capacity pumps. Some 75,000 litres of the spilled oil have been recovered but the rough sea conditions have hampered the success of the oil recovery efforts.

6. New reports indicate that the oil has now reached shore in many areas and is expected to impact a wide variety of aquatic and shoreline birds and animals for which the ecologically rich Galapagos Islands are internationally known. Species that might be potentially impacted (and some of which have already been affected in a limited way) include the giant Galapagos turtles, sea lions, sea iguanas and a wide array of sea and shoreline birds and plants.

7. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) as the lead UN-agency for ship-source oil spills is coordinating international response efforts. The International Tank Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) has also dispatched several experts to assess the damage and determine immediate response priorities.

The Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit has been in contact with the IMO and has offered its assistance in mobilizing internationally aid and expertise. In the interim, the Unit continues to closely monitor the situation through its established international network and will provide updates as new information becomes available.