Bulgarian Environment Minister Assen Lichev ordered a halt to an operation to unload a stranded ship carrying nitrogen fertilizers on September 28.
The Vera Su got stuck on rocks off the Bulgarian coast in the Yailata Conservation Area in early September and began to leak some of its cargo, which could endanger marine life in the region. The leaks of nitrogen fertilizer, which causes harmful algal blooms, eutrophication and marine dead zones (hypoxia), were confirmed by the Ministry of Environment at the end of September 27 after testing samples.
The spills contaminate an area that is part of Natura 2000 and is important for a significant part of the biodiversity in the Bulgarian part of the Black Sea.
In his order, Lichev stated that the unloading operation had not been carried out as agreed with the local authorities and that a large amount of manure had fallen into the sea.
An environmental NGO, To Preserve Coral, posted a video on their Facebook page showing the spills. The footage shot during the night shows white powder raining down from a crane.
“The spillage of cargo in the Black Sea is observed while rowing [of fertilisers] from the stranded ship to the other ship, ”remarked Lichev.
“The unloading method used differs fundamentally from that approved by the MoEW [environment ministry]“Said Lichev in the order.
He explained that at a meeting with the institutions responsible for carrying out the rescue operations on September 27, it was decided to pack 700 tons of the bulk material from the ship in bags of one ton each. The Ministry approved the unloading of cargo through tarpaulin decks filled with a grab on board the ship through a special hopper. They should be loaded onto the barge by crane. The packaged cargo would then be transported by barges with heightened marine environment safety measures.
The ministry insisted that local authorities put a sail between the stranded ship and the barge to prevent possible contamination, but this instruction was not carried out.
In an angry comment on Facebook, Lichev, who has been a prominent environmental activist for years, accused Boyko Borissov’s last regular government of leaving behind an “incompetent and irresponsible” administration, which led to the botched operation.
Borislav Sandov, co-head of the Green Movement, also commented on the operation, saying the contamination was not expected.
“With this irrigation and this wind, damage to part of the country is guaranteed. I am shocked at the sight, ”wrote Sandov on Facebook.
The Ministry of the Environment will resume operations as soon as a technology is implemented that ensures environmental safety.