The Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier 'Solomon Trader' was loading bauxite when it ran aground due to unexpected gale at Kangava Bay, Rennell Island, on 4 February, causing an environmental disaster. So far, more than 70 tonnes of oil has been dumped into the ocean, causing a three-mile slick in Kangava Bay which experts said was likely to cause long-term damage to the local ecosystem.

The East Rennell world heritage site is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. Since 2013 the site has been on a UNESCO danger list because of logging and overfishing. Now the grounding resulted in more than 70 tonnes of oil to be spilled into the ocean, causing a three-mile slick in Kangava Bay which threats the local ecosystem. The vessel was carrying about 700 tonnes of fuel at the time of the incident.

It is of the utmost importance that any damage to the World Heritage property and the livelihoods of the local communities is fully covered by the responsible company, owners and insurers,

...said Dr. Mechtild Rössler, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

In a statement last week, the Korea P&I Club and the vessel’s owner King Trader said the transfer of oil commenced after a specialist tank barge was towed in from Vanuatu. As of Thursday, about 230 tonnes had been transferred to the tank barge.

The insurer and owner of the grounded MV Solomon Trader have offered a sincere apology to the people of the Solomon Islands following the bauxite carrier’s grounding on a sensitive reef near Rennell Island, official statement read.

In its latest statement, King Trader said it expected to complete the transfer of fuel in the “coming days”, but added that breaks could occur due to weather or equipment repairs. Inclement weather made it difficult and at times impossible to access the vessel, and conditions have been too dangerous for external underwater inspections, the company said earlier.

The arrival of Cyclone Oma on February 10 also pushed the stricken vessel harder into the reef, worsening the situation.

Reports of the Solomon Trader crew being absent from the vessel or intoxicated at the time of the grounding were denied.