iOS app Android app More

Christmas Island Spill: Phosphate Ship Breaks In Half, Threatens Species (VIDEO)

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 01/10/12 12:03 PM ET Updated: 01/10/12 12:16 PM ET

A battered cargo ship broke in half on Monday, spilling fuel and phosphate into the sea around Christmas Island, off the coast of Western Australia.

After loading phosphate at an offshore mooring for three days, the Panamanian-registered MV Tycoon hit a sea wall during a big swell at Flying Fish Cove, according to the ABC.

WA Today reports that authorities estimate there were "102 tons of intermediate fuel oil, 11,000 litres of lubricant oil, 32 tons of diesel oil and approximately 260 tons of phosphate onboard the vessel."

According to the Channel 7 report in the above video, the Tycoon's crew of 15 leapt from the ship into the water to await rescue from the Navy. Two were injured.

Dr Nic Dunlop, an environmental scientist from The Conservation Council of WA told The West Australian that the impact of the heavy bunker oil on threatened species and the coral band around the island will be "disastrous." He listed sea bird populations such as the Brown Booby, Brown Noddy, Frigate Bird, and Abbotts Booby (which does not breed anywhere else in the world) as most at risk.

Island administrator Brian Lacy told the ABC he hopes there will not be too much damage, as the leaking oil is being dissipated by strong winds and waves.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Toby Stone told the ABC "it is not clear how much damage has been done." He said, "There's no capability of getting any aircraft up there at the moment because of the low cloud conditions."

According to WA Today locals and authorities began a clean up on Tuesday of the 100 tons of heavy oil and diesel that had leaked into the sea. But questions still remain as to why the ship was allowed to dock in the wild weather conditions.

''What puzzles everyone is why, when normally we push ships out when there's a swell coming, and don't leave them on the mooring buoys for very good reasons as we've just seen, they decided to leave this one on the mooring buoys overnight,'' Dunlop told WA Today.

Next week, the cove is expected to see the island's red crabs return as part of their annual migration, according to The Australian.

In 2010, rough seas contributed to another boating accident off Christmas Island. Up to 48 asylum seekers are believed to have been killed when their boat smashed into rocky cliffs.

FOLLOW HUFFPOST GREEN