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50 million more for WWII oil tanker wreck

08.03.2022 - 13:03
Mynd: Landhelgisgæsla Íslands / RÚV
50 million krónur will be invested into the El Grillo oil leak in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, according to a statement from the Ministry for the Environment, Energy, and Climate. Floating oil spill containment devices will be purchased and divers will cement over splits in two of the Second World War oil transporter’s tanks this summer to stop oil leaking out.

The statement confirms that activities around the tanker will be financed by the ministry after the oil from the ship on the bottom of the fjord has been a particular problem in recent summers, despite a major clean-up operation in 2001. 

78 years of leaking 

The British oil tanker El Grillo was sunk in an air raid by German planes in February 1944, during the Second World War. Oil started leaking soon thereafter and operations to pump oil out of the ship took place in 1952 and 2001.  

Despite some success, oil has continued to leak from the wreck throughout the entire history of the Republic of Iceland, though sometimes very little. The leaking reached a new high last summer and the ministry set up a working group made up of ministry representatives alongside people from the environment agency, coastguard, and the Múlaþing municipality. 

The administrative mayor of Múlaþing, Björn Ingimarsson, celebrates the ministry’s decision to invest money in the recommendations of the working group. “This is really in harmony with the recommendations that the working group set forth last autumn,” he confirms. 

So it could make a big difference? 

“What this does is it makes it possible to take these urgent actions now for the summer that the floating barriers and connected equipment bring. Then, we can capture the leakage that will very likely come up, as it always does with the warming sea going into summer. At the same time, it is also possible to carry on the operations from before with regard to cementing over the leak in the ship’s tanks. This is a project that is carried out with the coastguard and is under preparation. It is very pleasing that it is possible to react to this and carry this work on,” Björn says. 

Still looking for permanent solution 

The environment minister says in the press release that he hopes the repairs will prevent oil leaking into the fjord: “We will also look for ways to ensure a lasting solution, so that there will be no risk of leakage.” 

Björn says various options are on the table: “People are consulting with our neighbours in the Nordics and also in the British Isles about what ways are best. Bringing the ship up is one of the options. But I have heard from experts that that might not be the most sensible route to take. One other option is to completely cover the ship over,” Björn says. 

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