Black Sea faces ecological disaster over Bulgaria’s inaction – EURACTIV.com

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The cargo ship Vera Su, which flies the Panamanian flag and has a Turkish crew, crashed and ran aground on the high rocky Bulgarian coast a few kilometers from the Kaliakra nature reserve on September 20. If the Bulgarian authorities do not transfer the cargo ashore, the more than 3,000 tonnes of urea on board could threaten to transform this part of the Black Sea – one of the most important natural habitats in Europe – into an area dead.

Urea is used as a fertilizer in agriculture, but when in contact with seawater it causes phytoplankton to bloom rapidly, which emits toxins for marine life. Experts have warned it will destroy the rich marine habitats of dolphins, Black Sea sharks, other marine life and birds in this protected part of the Pontic Steppes.

For six days after the accident, the Bulgarian authorities took no action to save the ship, as the weather was ripe for a rescue operation.

Eight days after the accident, the authorities sent rescue vessels with inadequate equipment for unloading urea, which began to flow into the sea. The operation was interrupted by order of the Minister of Environment.

The stalemate with the stranded ship Vera Su and the resulting pollution of the sea led to the dismissal of the head of the Bulgarian maritime administration, Zhivko Petrov.

“I have identified a serious shortcoming on the part of the agency,” Transport Minister Hristo Alexiev said.

The day before, Zhivko Petrov had announced that he did not know that urea would leak when unloading the ship and affirmed that “this load was not so toxic”.

The government has set up a crisis headquarters to work in a coordinated manner to recover the wreckage. After missing the opportunity the first few days, the weather conditions in the area are now bad as big waves push the ship over the rocks.

The authorities remain ready to evacuate the nine crew members. The Navy hopes to secure the shop with large anchors to prevent it from being destroyed in bad weather. A new attempt will then be made to unload and recover it.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)


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