On February 28, the MT Princess Empress oil tanker was sailing without sending AIS signals following a common shipping route in the Philippines. It started to take on water and suffered engine trouble as the waves tossed it around in the waters off Oriental Mindoro, reports Kelly Franklin for SkyTruth. The captain and 19 crewmembers were rescued from the sinking tanker, which finally submerged about 14 km from shore.
The tanker has been leasing for months. On the day that it sank, the tanker was transporting around 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil. In March, the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources estimated that 35,000-50,000 liters of oil were escaping the sunken vessel per day.
Cleanup requires immense financial resources, labor, and time, and despite best efforts often can’t correct irreversible damage done to local flora and fauna. As of August, the Philippine government has paid $13 million in assistance to citizens in response to the Princess Empress oil spill but the damage to fisheries alone reached $68.3 million. The Philippine Department of the Environment and Natural Resources found that the affected habitat included 2251 hectares of coral, 1286 hectares of seagrass and 1647 hectares of mangrove forest. Of the affected locations, 26 were home to nesting sea turtles.