The British Cayman Island-registered ship tanker Chemroad Journey, en route from Singapore to China with some 30,000 tons of chemicals and 27 crew members, has reportedly been grounded on a rocky bottom off the central coast of Vietnam. According to the Maritime Bulletin, the vessel became grounded June 11 and suffers from a hull breach or breaches in its ballast tanks area.
The tanker is around 70 nautical miles off the coast of Binh Thuan Province, threatening the popular coastal resort town of Mui Ne. The Vietnam National Search and Rescue Committee (VNSRC) confirmed the ship was tilting some 15 degrees and could sink, and has demanded the captain of Chemroad Journey not release its chemical load in order to free itself. The tanker is believed to be holding butyraldehyde, ethylene glycol, ethyl hexanol, and ethanol amine, as well as 170 tons of fuel oil and 113 tons of diesel oil.
The response of Vietnamese authorities to the stranded tanker will be closely watched by the Vietnamese public. One year ago, protests broke out in several cities following the release of chemicals from a steel mill waste pipeline in Hà Tĩnh owned by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group. The chemical spill killed over 100 tons of fish along a 200-kilometer coastline just north of the popular beach tourist city of Da Nang.
While Vietnamese authorities were quick to deny the spill reached the beautiful beaches of Da Nang, Vietnam’s environmental ministry has confirmed the region will take at least a decade to recover from the spill.
Vietnam is attracting record amounts of international visitors this year, and many flock to Mui Ne for its clean beach, windsurfing and red sand dunes. Last year’s waste spillage led one Formosa official to try to explain, “It is only possible to choose one: either fishing or the development of modern steel industry”. The spill and subsequent response by Formosa has heightened environmental awareness and anger among the Vietnamese population—to the extent unchecked development could threaten the Party’s claims to good governance.
With Vietnam growing at some 6% annually, the new leadership will need to step up efforts to assure an ever-skeptical population that this much-needed growth can be managed sustainably.