Satellite-monitoring environmental group SkyTruth has revealed that an approximately 250-kilometre-long oil slick that has been spotted in the Red Sea was likely released by a merchant ship.
According to a report by gCaptain, the discharge was initially spotted off the coast of Sudan by Sentinel-2 satellite imagery on May 19.
The company reports that the slick measures about 250kms in length and was probably discharged from a moving vessel over the course of several hours. It said the volume of the spill equates to at least 120 000 gallons, but was likely to be much more depending on the thickness of the oil on the surface.
“The unusually large size and volume of this slick suggests it could be the result of tank washing by a petrochemical tanker, rather than bilge discharge from a cargo ship,” SkyTruth said in a Twitter feed.
The company used AIS data to narrow down possible culprits. It identified three ships, a Vietnamese-flagged tanker, a Panama-flagged containership, a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier, and a Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier, as suspects.
The company added that its analysis assumed the polluting vessel was not “running dark,” meaning it was broadcasting AIS at the time of the release, but could not rule out that a separate “dark” vessel was responsible.
Oil discharges from ships are regulated under the IMO’s International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.