KIEV, Nov. 12 - Ukraine will seek to change maritime regulations for oil tanker shipments in the Kerch Strait, following a major oil spill in the area Sunday, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said Monday.
Yanukovych chaired a special meeting in reaction to the fuel oil spill after a severe storm Sunday broke a Russian oil tanker in two. The storm is expected to rage for two more days in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
“We have to examine the regulations for operation of the Kerch Strait,” Yanukovych said after the meeting, attended by the energy and fuel minister, emergency minister and environment protection minister.
“We have to take into account the [latest] environmental disaster and to work jointly with Russia to prevent such disasters in the future,” he said.
The Kerch Strait, a Ukraine-controlled waterway linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is used by thousands of mostly Russian ships carrying commodities, including fuel oil, to customers in the region.
On Tuesday Yanukovych is expected to travel to Ukraine’s southern regions, including Crimea, and is expected to meet his Russian counterpart, Viktor Zubkov, who has been visiting Russian regions affected by the storm.
Yanukovych will be taken by helicopter to Berdiansk and Kerch to examine the regions affected by the fuel oil spill, following the meeting Monday.
Ukraine and Russia have been reacting to reports that at least 1,200 metric tons of fuel oil has leaked into the Kerch Strait following the crash of the tanker Volganeft-139.
The tanker had apparently traveled from the Russian port of Azov and was Sunday anchored outside Kerch in Ukraine's eastern Crimea to weather the storm.
But the storm, sending waves as high as 5 meters, broke the ship in two pieces, with bow remaining anchored and tanker aft, and crew of 13, drifting towards the coast.
The tanker, designed mostly for inland and coastal service, was carrying a total of 4,000 metric tons of fuel oil when it was hit by the storm.
Some 1,200 metric tons of oil is thought to have leaked into the Kerch Strait, which is five to six times more that the amount of oil leaked after the last week’s accident in the San Francisco Bay in the U.S.
Yanukovych also said latest reports from the Kerch Strait indicate the oil spill has been drifting away from the Ukrainian territory towards Russian territory, which may minimize the damage to the Ukrainian soil.
“It’s hard to make the estimate right now,” Yanukovych said. “We will make it within one or two days.” (sb/ez)