Tugboat serving AquaChile capsizes, adds to string of maritime accidents in Chile

A tugboat said to be serving AquaChile capsized in a fjord off Reloncaví Sound, located in the Los Lagos Region of Chile last Friday, putting local authorities on alert for a potential leakage of the oil from its tanks.

The ship ran aground at 4:45 a.m. local time as it was preparing to anchor, subsequently tipping over to the port side (left side), leaving part of it submerged. Its five crew members abandoned the vessel and swam towards the coast, where they were later helped by a boat from the AquaChile farm, some 300 meters away from the accident, reported local news outlet Elciudadano.

A cooperative of mussel farmers and several other salmon farms are nearby, the report said.

Possible oil leak
The Port Authority of Cochamo is monitoring the accident and the possible fuel leak since the tugboat, named Joaquín Primero, had some 5,000 liters of oil in its tanks, a port official said.

“Yesterday (Friday), traces of fuel had been witnessed. We are not sure if that fuel comes from the ship’s tank, which had approximately 5,000 liters inside, or if it could come from the same bilge in the ship’s engine room,” First Sergeant Patricio Villarroel was quoted as telling Radio del Mar.

The Navy carried out underwater inspections using a robot to ascertain whether the ship was leaking oil from its tank to the coastal area, but none has reportedly been detected so far.

“As a Maritime Authority, we continue to monitor the work being carried out by the responsible company in order to be able to remove that ship from the Bahía Sotomo sector,” Villarroel said.

A string of accidents
Chilean conservation group Ecocéanos decried the latest mishap, indicating that between 2017 and 2022 there have been 54 maritime emergencies in the various fleets that operate in the salmon farming regions of southern Chile.

Read also: Diver killed while servicing Nova Austral farm in Chile

“During the last six years there have been at least 13 accidents and/or sinking of feed barges for salmon, ships that transport oil and fuel and other supplies for plants and farming centres, in addition to ships that transported live salmon,” said the group.

Faced with these constant accidents, the National Federation of Maritime Unions and People of the Sea called for industry compliance with safety standards, defend the labour rights of workers and protect their lives. The union claims there’s “zero inspections” done on small ships.

SalmonBusiness has reached out to AquaChile.


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