Photos: Benjamin Seetor, The Straits Times, Gills N Claws

Fish farm might close due to oil spill
Fish farms in Pulau Ubin in costly ordeal after oil spill from vessels collision reaches them
By Kimberly Lim, 7th January 2017;

It has been an anxious three days for Mr Steven Suresh, who has been shuttling between his office in mainland Singapore and his fish farm located in north Pulau Ubin.

Gills N Claws, an aquaculture company, has a total of $500,000 worth of seafood at stake because of the oil spill in Johor, said the 46-year-old chief executive officer.

He is waiting for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) to release the results of food safety tests conducted on the fish samples.

The Tuesday night collision between two container vessels saw 300 tonnes of oil spillage.

By the following night, patches of oil were seen along the beaches of Singapore’s north-eastern coast.

Mr Steven said: “This whole experience has been horrifying and shocking. I really do not know what to do.

"We have been waiting for AVA’s reply to find out if we can still salvage any of our fish.”

The future for the company remains uncertain for now, he added.

“We have no insurance for the farm because it was not made available to us. We were affected by the red tide during the previous two years and we were just recovering from that when the oil spill happened,” he said.

Mr Steven expects the results to be out by tomorrow. But sales to restaurants, fishmongers and wholesalers have been brought to a standstill.

He said: “We have 40 tonnes of fish stocked up for the Chinese New Year, with each tonne costing up to $7,000. From my experience, my fish are definitely gone already. We cannot pull out the net or feed the fish.

"We also have four tonnes of lobsters, costing $55,000 per tonne. As far as I know, the lobsters are gone too – nobody will want to buy lobsters with oil coated on them.”

Mr Steven added: “The clean-up for the farm will take at least four months to complete and our business will have to stop because of it.”

He said the farm has to undergo structural changes on top of purchasing new nets and high-density floating polyethylene cubes.

There is a high chance the company will close down because of the time required to clean up, he said.

Mr Tan Choon Teck, owner of FC57E Fish Farm, also sent fish samples to AVA for testing.

The 54-year-old said in Mandarin: “AVA came to collect the fish sample on Wednesday but has not notified us on when the results will be released.

"I have not estimated the losses made but some of my small fishes have died.”

He added: “I have been feeling very anxious because I am afraid that more fish will die. I have also been very busy with cleaning the oil.”

Some fish farms have managed to escape the ordeal.

Among them is The Fish Farmer, located in the south of Pulau Ubin.

Mr Malcolm Ong, 53, the chief executive officer, said: “We were unaffected by the oil spill but it came close to the farm and skirted right past us.

‘Small Community’

"I feel very lucky and fortunate, but also a bit pained for our fellow farmers because we are a small community. It is a big blow for them and we hope that they can recover from this.”

AVA has been visiting coastal fish farms in the East Johor Strait to assess the situation and assist in the clean-up, such as issuing oil absorbent pads and canvas to 25 farmers closest to the oil spill.

Some farms have reported loss of 250kg of fish.

AVA said: “To ensure food safety, AVA has collected fish samples for food safety tests and will continue to do so. We have also issued suspension of sales to 12 farms as (of yesterday).

"The suspension will be in place until food safety evaluations are complete. Fish available in the market is safe for consumption.”

Dr Leong Hon Keong, group director of AVA’s technology and industry development group, said: “As compared to the day before, we have observed more farms with tainted nets and structures in the East Johor Strait due to the tidal movement.

"AVA will continue to monitor the situation and assist the fish farmers, including assisting in cleanup efforts.”

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said: “Clean-up operations are still on going at Changi Point Ferry Terminal, fish farms at Nenas Channel, and at Noordin beach, northern coastline of Pulau Ubin. Oil spill response vessels as well as containment booms and spill recovery equipment, such as harbour busters, skimmers and absorbent booms and pads, have also been deployed.”

Source: The New Paper

  1. Dead fish are seen at 2 Jays fish farm, one of the farms affected by the oil spill, on Jan 6, 2017.
  2. Mr Timothy Ng, operations manager of 2 Jays fish farm, holds a dead, oil-covered hybrid Grouper (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus x lanceolatus) on Jan 6, 2017.

Photos: Audrey Tan

MPA says good progress made in containing, cleaning up oil spill; 12 fish farms asked to suspend sales
By Audrey Tan, 6th January 2017;

A total of 12 Singapore fish farms have been asked by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to stop selling fish until food safety evaluations are complete.

This is an increase from the three farms which faced the sales suspension on Thursday (Jan 5).

‘Since the oil spill incident, AVA has been visiting coastal fish farms in the East Johor Strait daily to ascertain and mitigate the situation, and assist in the clean-up,“ said an AVA spokesman.

Oil absorbent pads, and canvas to prevent oil from spreading, have been given to 25 farmers near the oil spill site, she added.

Fish available in the market is safe for consumption, the AVA said.

AVA’s assurance comes on the back of an oil spill from Johor that affected coastal farms in Singapore and stained the Republic’s north-eastern shoreline with black, tar-like substances.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in a press release on Friday afternoon said "good progress has been made in containing and cleaning up the oil spillage” caused by the collision of two container vessels off Pasir Gudang port in Johor on Tuesday.

Clean-up operations are still ongoing at Changi Point Ferry Terminal, fish farms at the Nenas Channel and at Noordin beach, the northern coastline of Pulau Ubin, said the MPA.

MPA and other government agencies are “monitoring the situation closely and will carry out necessary clean-up efforts”, it added in its release.

Port operations remain unaffected.

Those who spot oil patches in Singapore waters or coastlines may contact MPA’s 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre on 6325-2488 or 6325-2489.

Parts of Changi beach remained closed to the public on Friday morning, as work to clean up the remnants of an oil spill continued.

A check by The Straits Times at Changi beach at about 10.30am showed red and white tape blocking off access to the beach, with no swimming signs placed every 10m or so. The signs warned of contaminated waters.

The beach next to the popular Changi Village Hawker Centre was still streaked with a black substance, and a strong smell of petroleum lingered in the air.

There were also plastic bags filled with oil-stained sand lying along the shoreline. Workers were seen spraying jets of a liquid on the walls next to Changi jetty in what looked like an attempt to remove the black, tar-like substance clinging to the walls.

Oil spill response boats seen around Changi jetty had containers labelled “dispersants” on them. Dispersants are chemicals commonly used to break up oil slicks into smaller droplets, in the same way that detergents are used to clean grease from dishes, according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Officers wearing MPA polo T-shirts were also seen supervising the works.

The oil spill hit Singapore shores on Wednesday night at about 9.50pm, said the National Environment Agency (NEA). It originated from a collision of container vessels Wan Hai 301 and APL Denver at about midnight on Tuesday.

Singapore government agencies, such as the NEA, MPA and National Parks Board (NParks), are working to limit the damage.

AVA said on Thursday it is also conducting lab tests on fish taken from some of the fish farms in the East Johor Strait area.

Operations manager of 2 Jays fish farm, Mr Timothy Ng, said he has lost about 20kg of fish so far. It is too soon to assess the damage, he said, as fish are not directly impacted by the oil spill.

“There will be enough oxygen for the fish as long as the water is moving and not stagnant. The danger happens when they surface to feed, as they may ingest oil-coated food, or get oil in their gills,” Mr Ng added.

He has not fed most of his fish since the oil spill happened on Tuesday, although he told The Straits Times that he may start doing so today as most of the oil has been cleared. He usually feeds his fish once a day.

Source: The Straits Times

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Oil spill off Johor: Affected fish farms plan to seek compensation
6th January 2017;

With affected fish farms mulling legal action in the wake of Tuesday’s oil spill, lawyers told Channel NewsAsia that the ship owners responsible for the spill are liable.

Source: Channel NewsAsia

  1. Gills N’ Claws, one of the affected coastal fish farms in Singapore.
  2. Oil slicked Green Mussels (Perna viridis) seen on a rope at Gills N’ Claws fish farm.

Photos: Winnie Goh

Oil spill off Johor: Affected fish farms plan to seek compensation
By Lianne Chia & Vanessa Lim, 6th January 2017;

One fish farm lost almost its entire Chinese New Year harvest, after a vessel collision off Johor on Tuesday (Jan 3) resulted in about 300 tonnes of oil spilling into the sea.

Now, Gills N’ Claws, which runs a fish farm north of Pulau Ubin, said it is already in talks with its lawyers and will consider taking legal action against the shipping companies in question.

“Our lawyers told us we can sue the ship owners for compensation,” said Gills N’ Claws’ CEO Steven Suresh. “But first we will ask them amicably how they plan to compensate us, and then see what they say.

"If they don’t want to compensate us, then we will have to take legal action.”

The company estimates its losses could run to as high as S$700,000. It saw the deaths of about 70 per cent of the fish meant to be sold in time for Chinese New Year, but the larger proportion of its losses come from having to change all the infrastructure that was ruined by the oil.

“Just redoing the infrastructure alone is going to cost us a bomb,” said Mr Suresh. “It’s easier for me to tear the whole thing down and build a new system than to clean up the oil.”

Ship owners liable for compensation: lawyers

But how likely is it that they will be successful in recouping their losses? Lawyers Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that under Singapore law, these fish farms are eligible for compensation from the ship owners responsible for the spill.

“If the collision was caused by the fault or negligence of any of the ships involved, the fish farms would likely have a claim against the party at fault,” said K Murali Pany, managing partner of Joseph Tan Jude Benny LLP. “If the party does not offer payment, the fish farms will have to bring a claim in court, and a ship arrest to obtain security for their claims may also be possible.”

The Government can also take steps to penalise shipping companies for causing oil spills that affect Singapore, according to S Suressh, partner at Harry Elias Partnership and head of the Aviation and Shipping Practice Group. He said the master, agent and owner of the ship can be fined up to a maximum of S$1 million under the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Act.

In a 1993 case involving accidental pollution, the fine imposed was about S$10,000. But penalties are much more severe in cases of deliberate pollution. “In 1996, a tanker dumped oil into the sea. The master was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment and fined S$400,000. The ship’s owner and its agent were also fined S$400,000 each.”

He added that the fish farms looking to make a claim will have to take the matter up with the representatives of the owner of the vessel. There is also no fixed time frame for it to be resolved, as each case is different. “If matters cannot be resolved, then claimants can sue the owners, but this is rarely necessary as most claims of this nature are settled,” he said. “The ship probably has insurance coverage for this.”

Fish farms taking a wait-and-see approach

In the meantime, affected fish farms are still assessing their damage and taking a wait-and-see approach. President of the Fish Farmers’ Association Timothy Ng said they are still exploring their options and are currently having preliminary discussions. “But it is likely that we will need to make some claims,” he said.

It is also not easy to gauge the actual impact of the oil spill on his association’s members, he added. “There are a few farmers directly impacted, but for others … I heard from a farmer closer to the Changi side that they could see (the) oil coming.”

“So we will only know in a few weeks, when everything is settled, what the impact is on their farms.”

As of Friday (Jan 6), the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has issued orders for 12 farms to suspend fish sales until food safety evaluations are complete.

Fish available in the market is safe for consumption, AVA added.

AVA has also been visiting coastal fish farms to ascertain and mitigate the situation, as well as assist in the clean-up. Oil-absorbent pads and canvas have been issued to 25 farmers near the site of the oil spill to help protect their fish stock.

It added that while some farms said that about 250kg of fish have died, most of the farms in the same area did not report any, and that there is “minimal impact to supply”.

Source: Channel NewsAsia

12 farms ordered to stop fish sales in aftermath of oil spill

By Toh Ee Ming, 7th January 2017;

Nine more farms have been told to stop selling fish as a result of the oil spill, although the authorities said on Friday (Jan 6) that no new patches of oil had been spotted and the cleanup progress was going well.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said that the suspension would be in place “until food safety evaluations are complete”. This brings the total number of farms told to stop sales to 12, on top of the three ordered to do so on Thursday.

Some 300 tonnes of oil gushed into the waters off Singapore on Tuesday night, after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor.

The AVA has been visiting coastal fish farms in the East Johor Straits to ascertain and mitigate the situation, and to assist in the cleanup.

Oil-absorbent pads and canvas were given to 25 farmers near the oil spill site to help protect their fish stock, and the authority also collected fish samples for food-safety tests.

Its spokesperson said: “While some farms have reported some fish mortalities of about 250kg, most of the farms in the same area did not report any … There is minimal impact to supply.”

Separately, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) stressed that “good progress” has been made in containing and cleaning up the oil spillage in Singapore’s waters following the collision of container vessels Wan Hai 301 and Gibraltar-registered container vessel APL Denver. No new patches of oil have been spotted along East Johor Straits, and port operations remain unaffected, MPA said.

Cleanup operations are still taking place at various places such as the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, fish farms at Nenas Channel and Noordin beach situated on the northern coastline of Pulau Ubin.

The MPA also deployed oil-spill response vessels, containment booms and spill recovery equipment such as harbour busters, skimmers and absorbent booms and pads.

“MPA and the other government agencies are monitoring the situation closely and will carry out necessary cleanup efforts,” it said.

An 800m stretch of Changi Beach has been closed until further notice due to the oil spill, the National Environment Agency said on Thursday.

The closure is to help facilitate the clean-up of the affected area, the NEA said, and advised the public to avoid the area.

Members of the public who spot any oil patches in Singapore’s waters or coastline may call the MPA’s 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2488/9.

Source: TODAY

12 farms ordered to stop fish sales in aftermath of oil spill

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Timothy Ng, operations manager of two farms affected by the oil spill, has lost about 20kg of fish so far.

Source: The Straits Times Facebook

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An up-close look at the oily sludge that has ruined the fish stock and pens of some Singapore farms after an oil spill off Johor.

Video: Winnie Goh

Source: Channel NewsAsia Facebook

  1. Gills N Claws’ farm manager, Steven Wong, holds up a fish covered in oil.
  2. The Green Mussels that Gills N Claws breeds as food supply for lobsters is covered in oil.

Photos: Winnie Goh

Fish farms reeling from impact of oil spill off Johor
By Monica Kotwani & Vanessa Lim, 5th January 2017;

At a fish farm north of Pulau Ubin, workers panicked on Wednesday (Jan 4) when they saw what was meant to be their Chinese New Year harvest turn belly-up in the water.

The farm, owned by Gills N Claws, told Channel NewsAsia it lost about 1,000 fish, after a nearby vessel collision the day before saw about 300 tonnes of oil spill into the sea. Gills N Claws said the oil seeped into its nets containing fish such as Red Snappers (Lutjanus sp.), Pearl Groupers (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus x lanceolatus) and the Silver Pomfret (Pampus argenteus).

“Our workers scrambled to put up canvasses outside the floating platforms provided by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA),” said Gills N Claws’ head of operations, Winston Siv Raj. “But 70 per cent of the fish meant to be sold in time for Chinese New Year have died.”

The farm also breeds Crabs (likely Swimming Crabs) (F. Portunidae) and Lobsters (Spiny Lobsters) (Panulirus sp.). These too were found coated in engine oil, as were the Green Mussels (Perna viridis) grown as food for the lobsters. Farm manager Steven Wong lifted ropes on which the mussels were growing, only to find them caked with oily sludge.

When Channel NewsAsia arrived at the farm, staff from AVA and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) were on the scene, with AVA officials packing a Red Snapper and some mussels for tests at their laboratory.

Mr Raj said estimates the damage could run up to S$700,000, as the company also needs to change all its fish nets and floats, as well as supporting anchor points and connecting ropes that were ruined by the oil.

“This does not include the fish and lobsters that survived. The figures could change drastically if the AVA finds that the lobsters and fish taken for lab tests are unfit for consumption,” he said.

Other fish farms are still trying to assess their losses. At a farm owned by 2 Jays, the surface of the water surrounded by netting was coated with a thick layer of black oil and the air smelled of diesel.

Workers were throwing large cloth pads into the water in a bid to soak up the oil, but beyond that, they were unable to do much.

Its operations manager Timothy Ng said his workers could not check their fish stocks without lifting the nets. However if they did, they would risk killing more fish, as the surviving fish could choke on the oil floating on top if they came near the surface, he said. To prevent fish from suffocating in this fashion, workers were also instructed not to feed them.

The co-owner of Farm 85 Aquaculture, Andrew Sim, meantime, was at a loss for words, gazing out at his oil-coated fish pens. “I don’t know what to do … It’s too much already.“

Sale of fish at 3 farms suspended

AVA had said on Wednesday that two farms saw fish deaths due to the oil spill and that up to 200kg of fish had died.

On Thursday, it said more farms were found to have tainted nets and structures, compared to the day before due to tidal movement. It has issued oil absorbent pads and canvas to 22 farmers closest to the oil spill site to help protect their fish stock.

Aside from the two farms however, "most of the farms in the same area did not report fish mortality,” said Dr Leong Hon Keong, group director of AVA’s Technology and Industry Development Group.“There is minimal impact to supply. Nevertheless, AVA will continue to monitor the situation and assist the fish farmers, including assisting in clean-up efforts.”

As a precautionary measure, AVA has collected fish samples for food safety tests and will continue to do so, it said. The authority also issued orders to three farms to suspend sales of fish until food safety evaluations are complete.

A total of 17 vessels and more than 220 personnel have been mobilised for a massive clean-up in the wake of the oil spill, MPA said. Changi Beach was also partially closed on Wednesday as a safety precaution.

Source: Channel NewsAsia

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For fish farmer Phillip Lim, the oil spill comes at a particularly bad time, as it will affect his fish sales for the new year period. He added that the oil will not only kill his fish, but provide nutrients for harmful algae blooms.

Video: Audrey Tan

Source: The Straits Times Facebook

Authorities embark on clean-up along Singapore coastlines after oil spill

By Alfred Chua, 5th January 2017;

A day after two ships collided in Johor waters, oil patches were found along coastlines in the north-eastern part of Singapore, while an 800m stretch of Changi Beach was closed on Thursday (Jan 5) to clean up the oil spill.

A second fish farm in the affected area also reported fish deaths from the spill, although the authorities said most farms were spared and impact on supply was “minimal”. Nonetheless, some farms have been told to suspend sales, until food safety tests are completed. Apart from Changi Beach, oil patches were also found along the shorelines of Noordin beach at Pulau Ubin, and the beaches at Punggol and Pasir Ris, said the National Environmental Agency (NEA). They were also found off the Cafhi jetty, also at Changi Beach and along the shorelines of Changi Point Ferry Terminal, as well as Changi Sailing Club, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Thursday evening.

About 300 tonnes of oil gushed into the waters off Singapore on Tuesday night after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor.

When TODAY visited Changi Beach on Thursday afternoon, cleaners were seen clearing up oil-coated sand near Changi jetty, and placing oil-absorbent pads into the water. They had been working there since morning.

There was a distinct stench of oil in the air and a handful of beachgoers could be seen in the area.

Not far from the jetty, bag after bag of sand coated with oil was heaped along the seashore.

The NEA has advised the public to exercise caution when visiting the affected beaches and to avoid the stretches where cleaning work is being carried out.

Clean-up work aside, the authorities on Thursday also stepped up their efforts to contain the oil spill. The MPA increased the number of vessels deployed to clear up the oil patches to 17, from nine the previous day. Its spokesperson said 222 personnel were involved in the clean-up efforts.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which deployed oil-absorbent booms along Pulau Ubin’s north-eastern coast, Pasir Ris Park and Coney Island Park on Wednesday to protect mudflats and mangrove areas, said “the booms have kept the oil out of the biodiversity sensitive sites”.

“We will continue to monitor the impact of the oil spill on marine life and share more details when this is ready,” it added.

Meanwhile, fish farmers were on Thursday counting the cost of the damage arising from the oil spill, while the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said more farms in the East Johor Strait have found oil on their nets and premises, due to tide movement.

Two farms have reported fish deaths, amounting to 100 to 250kg across both farms. The AVA said it has issued notices to suspend sales to three farms, and more will be issued if more farms become affected.

When TODAY visited Mr Timothy Ng from 2 Jays Pte Ltd at his farm off the north-western coast of Pulau Ubin, cleaning personnel could be seen working to remove swathes of black oil. This was “the largest such incident” to hit his 12-year-old farm, which is among those hit with a suspension. A visibly-disappointed Mr Ng said he could not do much with his fish stock now, except to put aerators into the fish cages to pump in fresh air. “We cannot feed any fish now, since the food will be contaminated, so for now, we will just have to wait and see,” said Mr Ng, adding that “no more than 10kg” of fish had already died due to the oil spill.

His farm has around 10 tonnes of fish and seafood, and four employees.

Mr Tan Choon Teck, from FC57E Fish Farm, said his entire 3ha farm was covered with oil and cleaning-up works were in progress.

He said in Mandarin: “I’m worried if my fish would die from a lack of fresh air (due to the thick layer of oil). I’m worried also because we cannot feed them,” he said, adding that the AVA had taken a few of his fish for tests.

Source: TODAY

Authorities embark on clean-up along Singapore coastlines after oil spill