Beaches on Singapore’s holiday island Sentosa are closed after an oil spill

Oil-covered sand along Tanjong Beach on Sentosa Island on June 15. (Photo: Blomberg)

By David Ramli

Beaches on Singapore’s holiday island and the wealthy expat port of Sentosa were closed after an oil spill at a nearby port spread to the waters on Friday.

Sentosa Development Corp., which manages the island, was warned Friday evening of “instances of oil spillage into the seawater” around one of the beaches following an accident between two ships at the terminal, according to a message to Sentosa residents on Saturday.

Further investigation on Saturday morning revealed that the oil slick had spread to other beaches on the island, as well as to Sentosa Cove, a residential enclave of more than 2,000 homes, the report said. It says all beaches are closed to activities and clean-up has begun.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said on Friday evening that it was dealing with an oil leak that occurred after the Dutch-flagged dredger Vox Maxima struck bunker ship Marine Honor at the Pasir Panjang Terminal in the afternoon. The authority said at the time that the affected cargo tank has been isolated “and the spill has been contained.”

On Saturday morning, a thick smell of petroleum hung over Tanjong Beach, where the sand and rocks of the nearly deserted coastline were coated with black oil. Clean-up crews and lifeguards wearing protective gear worked several meters away from beach volleyball players, who continued their games even though some said the smell was giving them headaches.

Tanjong Beach Club, which is normally busy with guests on weekends, was mostly empty. Scattered tables with a handful of diners looked out over the shoreline, which was cordoned off with tape and warning signs.

One sign read: “Oil slick spotted. Clearance in progress. Please stay away from water.”

On Saturday afternoon, the MPA said cleanup operations for the oil spill were underway and that it had alerted several waterfront facilities, including Sentosa Development Corp., and port terminals to monitor for oil sightings at their locations. The authority will not say how much oil has leaked.

“Spots of oil and light sheen have been observed at Pasir Panjang Terminal and along Tanjong, Palawan and Siloso Beach in Sentosa Island,” the statement said. It said 16 “oil response vessels” were deployed to tackle the problem by spraying oil dispersants and collecting the oil slicks.

Oil barriers, floating physical barriers, will be used “to prevent further contamination,” said the notice to Sentosa residents Saturday morning, sent on behalf of Sentosa Cove Resort Management by Knight Frank Property & Facilities Management.

Knight Frank did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

First print: June 15, 2024 | 2:04 PM IST