Francois de Rugy, France’s minister of ecology, hopes fuel pumping operations around the sunken Gande America start Friday or Saturday, depending on weather conditions, he told Sud Radio Friday.
Aerial observations by a French Navy maritime surveillance aircraft on Thursday located the presence of two distinct spills about 20 kilometers (12.43 miles) apart and about 170 nautical miles west of La Rochelle, France’s Atlantic Maritime Prefecture said in a press release. The first, located above the wreck, is approximately 13 kilometers long and 7 kilometers wide and has a compact appearance, while the second is 9 kilometers long and 7 kilometers wide with a more fragmented appearance, the prefecture said.
The spill is moving 35 kilometers per day, according to Franceinfo. Gironde and Charente-Maritime in southwestern France are both reportedly anticipating possible pollution of their coasts and have placed services on a pre-alert phase, Franceinfo reported.
“The Maritime Prefecture has brought together the drift committee of experts in the fields of meteorology, oceanography, the behavior of petroleum products and the fight against marine pollution,” according to a translated version of the prefecture’s press release. “The first estimates confirm the risks of coastal pollution. Potentially impacted areas can only be determined in several days.”
A fuel spill was first located Wednesday in the area where the Grimaldi Group-owned ConRo ship Grande America sank Tuesday in the Bay of Biscay. The ship was carrying about 2,200 tons of heavy fuel oil before it sank, de Rugy said, along with 2,210 vehicles and 365 containers. Forty-five containers had hazardous cargo, including 100 tons of hydrochloric acid and 70 tons of sulfuric acid, Maritime Prefect Adm. Jean-Louis Lozier said.
Grande America sank to a depth of 4,600 meters after it caught fire Sunday night, which forced all 27 people onboard to abandon ship. They were rescued by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll with no serious injuries reported.