Large oil spill occurs in Indian Ocean

By CHISAKI WATANABE, Associated Press Writer Tue Aug 15, 10:04 AM ET

TOKYO - A Japanese tanker spilled about 1.4 million gallons of crude oil in the eastern Indian Ocean following a collision with a cargo ship, the tanker's operator said Tuesday. Japan's Kyodo news service said the spill — which would be about 4,500 tons — may have been the largest ever involving a Japanese tanker. In a separate oil spill, the Philippines said that a tanker had sunk in rough seas Friday off the coast of Guimaras Island, about 312 miles southeast of Manila. About 528,000 gallons of industrial fuel was leaking from the accident, officials said.

A central Philippine island province declared a "state of calamity" following what authorities called the country's worst spill.

Faced with a potential "environmental catastrophe," the Philippine coast guard called for a national mobilization of resources to mitigate the impact of the large amount of leaking fuel, "which is now considered as the biggest major oil spill that has hit our country."

The Japanese tanker Bright Artemis spilled the oil following a collision Monday with the Amar, a smaller cargo ship, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines said in a statement. It said the accident took place when the tanker maneuvered near the Amar, which was in distress about 300 miles west of India's Nicobar islands.

The exact amount of the spill was not clear, the announcement said. The tanker was carrying about 77.6 million gallons, or 250,000 tons, of crude. It had left port in Oman bound for Japan.

There were no reports of injuries aboard the tanker, which had a Croatian captain and crew of 23, or the Amar, which was registered in Singapore.

Mitsui said the spill had been reported to Singaporean and Indian Coast Guard officials.

The largest oil spill involving a U.S. vessel occurred when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker emptied 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska in 1989, killing hundreds of thousands of birds and marine animals and soiling more than 1,200 miles of rocky beach.