Aging oil tankers may provoke ecological disaster in Caspian Sea

Jul 18, 2006 02:00 AM

A Russian environmental official warned of potential ecological disaster in the Caspian Sea if aging oil tankers are used to transport crude from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan to be pumped through a US-backed pipeline that bypasses Russia.
Oleg Mitvol, deputy chief of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources, told that small-capacity, single-hulled tankers commonly in use on the sea were more likely to leak or spill crude oil.

Western countries have pushed Kazakhstan to increase its oil exports via the US-backed pipeline that runs from Azerbaijan via Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Mitvol said increased shipments in the older ships would put the sea at greater risk.
“Oil deliveries by single-hull tankers pose a real threat to this unique ecological region,” he said. “Why should they worry about single-hulled oil tankers on, say, the Mediterranean Sea, but not on the Caspian Sea? Why is the Caspian not worthy of such protection?”

Kazakhstan, which possesses the largest oil deposits in the Caspian Sea, currently exports most of its oil via Russia, but has been seeking to establish alternative routes. In June, it signed up to pump its oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.
Talks to build an extension of the pipeline under the Caspian, however, are in their infancy, and in the meantime, Kazakhstan’s tiny fleet of aging Soviet-era tankers is expected to increase crude shipments to Azerbaijani oil terminals.

Russia strongly opposed the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and instead pressed for Caspian oil to continue going through its network of pipelines to the Black Sea.
Russia and the other four Caspian countries -- Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Kazakhstan -- have been in tough talks for years on dividing the sea and its resources, and there is no deal in sight yet.

Source: MosNews
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