Bulgarian Transport Minister Ivailo Moskovski said on August 22 that an operation to drain heavy fuel oil from the Mopang shipwreck off Sozopol on the Black Sea coast “could start even today”.
His statement came after a Cabinet meeting, and a few hours after oil pollution was found on the Coral beach on Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast, which reports said could possibly be from the Mopang.
The alert about the spill was given on August 12. Bulgaria’s government rushed to issue an assurance that the heavy fuel oil spill had been contained and, it said, there was no danger to tourists or the environment.
The Mopang, an American vessel, was en route from Bourgas to Istanbul in July 1921 when it hit a German sea mine dating from the First World War. The ship sank within minutes and rests at a depth of about 35 metres. Records show that the capacity of the ship’s tanks was 650 tons of heavy fuel oil.
Moskovski said that a plan for the draining of the Mopang’s tanks had been approved and a budget of 2.4 million leva had approved, to come from the disaster relief fund.
The plan envisaged a maximum working time of 50 days, assuming that there were about 600 to 650 tons of heavy fuel oil in the Mopang’s tanks. If there was less than this amount, the operation could conclude sooner, he said.
Moskovski said that while there was a film of oil on the water, it had been confined from spreading.
Asked whether Bulgaria could claim compensation from the United States because the ship was American, he said that he was seeking advice from experts on international law.
On August 22, journalist and diver Mihail Zaimov, who first raised the alert about the spill from the vessel, said that the Maritime Administration had responded quickly and appropriately.
Zaimov said that there already was an ecological catastrophe on the seabed. He said that there was a risk that the shipwreck would suffer further structural damage. If this happened, more than ton of fuel could be released in a minute, he said.
(Photo: Bulgarian Transport Ministry)