No leaks detected so far in fuel-laden ship that sank off Tunisia

Divers have inspected the hull of the tanker that sank off Tunisia’s coast with 750 tonnes of diesel.

Tunisia ship accident
Men stand next to a boat on a beach as a military boat is seen in the background off the coast of Gabes where a merchant fuel ship sank [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

Divers have inspected the hull of a tanker loaded with 750 tonnes of fuel that sank off southeastern Tunisia, with no leak detected so far, officials said.

The crew of the Xelo had made a distress call on Friday evening and sought shelter in Tunisian waters from bad weather before going down, authorities said.

The Equatorial Guinea-flagged Xelo was travelling from Egypt to Malta when it went down.

Images released by the environment and defence ministries showed divers heading for the site in the Gulf of Gabes, and then getting into the water at the scene that has been sealed off by Tunisia’s military.

“With the improvement in weather conditions, a team of divers accompanied by the ship’s captain and engineer who know its layout are on site to examine the hull,” Mohamed Karray, spokesman for the court in Gabes city, which is investigating Saturday’s sinking, told the AFP news agency on Sunday.

Defence ministry photos showed the vessel largely submerged.

Environment Minister Leila Chikhaoui, who travelled to the port of Gabes on Saturday to help oversee the response, said the situation was “under control”.

“We think the hull is still watertight and there is no leakage for the moment,” she told AFP.

As a precaution, protective booms to contain any oil slick have been placed around the wreck.

Tunisia ship accident
A merchant fuel ship sinks off the coast of Gabes, Tunisia [Reuters]

Some countries have offered to help Tunisia prevent damage to the environment, the Tunisian defence ministry said on Sunday.

Local media reports said Italy had offered to help and that it was expected to send a naval vessel specialised in dealing with marine disasters.

The Tunisia branch of the World Wildlife Fund expressed concern over another “environmental catastrophe” in the region, an important fishing zone which has already suffered from pollution.

Source: News Agencies