Sunday, November 14, 2004


Group calls for removal of shipwreck


A diver from the Taiwanese Coral Reef
Association checks the wreckage of
"M.V. Amorgos," a Greek freighter that
ran aground and sank off Kenting in
January 2001, to asses the damage it
has caused to the natural environment
in southern Taiwan. (Central News Agency)

Members of the Taiwanese Coral Reef Society environmental group appealed yet again yesterday to government agencies not to let the "Amorgos" pollution case go any further and see to it that the undersea wreckage is removed at the earliest possible date.

Wreckage of the Amorgos, a Greek freighter that ran aground and sank off the coast of Kenting at the southernmost tip of Taiwan January 14, 2001, is now "a slaughter hell" for coral in an area of Lungkeng off Kenting, said Cheng Ming-hsiu, Society chairman and a researcher with Academia Sinica's (中央研究院) Institute of Zoology.

Since the freighter's sinking, its wreckage has continued to impair the growth of coral because of the sharp metal edges of the wreck, turning the area into a coral graveyard, Cheng claimed.

He added that after a series of observations, it has been found that in a 2 kilometer by 500 meter coral reef area near Lungkeng, Kenting, coral coverage rate has continued to drop.

Contrary to previous speculation that the freighter's wreckage could become an undersea artificial fishery reef, he said, the ship has disintegrated in the strong currents and its debris has continued to spread, posing increasing threats to the coral.

The harmful debris will not disappear by itself and it cannot be "digested" by the sea, Cheng argued, adding that the only option is to have it removed before more coral, the ecological system and Taiwan's tourism resources are further compromised.

A similar situation has been found in an undersea area to the east of Green Island, where the freighter Picasso sank 12 years ago, Cheng said.

By comparison, he said, coral reefs near Penghu Island are found to be the most healthy, with coral coverage rate totaling nearly 100 percent.

The Amorgos, carrying 60,000 tons of iron ore, was heading for Nantong in mainland China from Singapore when it developed mechanical problems and began to drift. It ran aground 1.6 km off the coast of Oluanpi, Taiwan's southernmost tip, before sinking.

All 25 crew members were rescued, but the ship later broke in two and an estimated 1,150 tons of fuel oil gushed out of the vessel and blanketed coral reefs in the Oluanpi area.

The oil spill has blanketed coral reefs in the Oluanpi area, causing an ecological disaster that will take the sensitive ecosystem years from which to recover.

At least three officials were disciplined due to aftermath of that incident.

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