PEMEX Vessel Sinks in CoatzacoalcosBy Conal Quinn | Wed, 06/08/2022 - 19:53
An oil spill has been reported in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, following the sinking of a PEMEX-operated barge. Chalán 571 sank in the Pajaritos Lagoon on Saturday and the subsequent spillage has raised concerns for the local environment.
PEMEX workers point to the lack of maintenance as a likely cause of the accident, with initial reports indicating the barge’s structural integrity was undermined by years of salt corrosion. The Chalán had been in service off the shore of Veracruz for decades, and accusations of negligence on PEMEX’s part put the maintenance practices of the NOC under further scrutiny.
At the time of its sinking, the Chalán was situated between PEMEX docks One and Two at the Pajaritos maritime terminal, obstructing the entry and exit of other vessels. In an official statement, PEMEX assured that Pajaritos is operating normally again, without major disruptions to personnel, facilities and operations.
The NOC also stated that they had managed to confine the spill within the docks limits, and that it was now working on recovering the lost crude by means of a pressure and vacuum unit. However, reports suggest the spill has advanced further down the navigation channel of the Coatzacoalcos tributary. Meanwhile, local fishermen from the nearby Villa Allende community had already been complaining of oil spills contaminating the area for at least a month. It is uncertain whether this is proof that the Chalán was already leaking or there is another source of spillage. Regardless, the fishermen will be forced to fish further afield for the foreseeable future.
Environmental activists have warned that damage to the wetlands of the Pajaritos lagoon will affect several species of bird that travel up river to lay their eggs, while also threatening the already endangered sea turtles currently nesting on the sheltered sandbanks off the Gulf of Mexico. Sergio Guzmán Ricárdez, a Morena member for Coatzacoalcos District 30 in the Veracruz Congress, called on PEMEX to take more responsibility for the accident. which has harmed both the local ecology and economy.
While PEMEX made greater commitments to protecting the environment a top priority of its 2019 business plan, the critical underfunding of midstream infrastructure has proven costly once more. Experts believe that the tightening of PEMEX's purse strings to fulfill its debt obligations and fund the expansion of the refining system has hampered its ability to repair storage facilities and pipelines in dire need of maintenance. Just last month in the same state, PEMEX confirmed there was an ammonia leak due to a fault in the Coatzacoalcos-Minatitlan pipeline.