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Drunk Russian Captain Crashes Oil Tanker

Two oil tankers have collided in the Irkutsk region in Russia's thanks to a captain operating under the influence of alcohol, causing oil spillage into a local river. 

According to Irkutsk governor Igor Kobzev, it’s still unclear how much fuel spilled into the Lena River, the world's 11th longest, but said one tanker that sustained significant damage was carrying 138 metric tons of gasoline. The governor estimates that as many as 60 to 90 tons of fuel could spill into the river.

"At the moment, the oil slick has passed a number of settlements. The situation is complicated by the fact that the river is navigable. In addition, there are settlements downstream. According to the East Siberian transport prosecutor Denis Evgenievich Avdeev, the ship Yerofey Khabarov was controlled by the captain's assistant. As shown by a medical examination, the captain, in turn, was drunk," Kobzev said after an operational meeting.

Oil accidents are pretty common in Russia, but the Norilsk oil spill is considered the worst of its kind in the country, and yet another case of the adverse impacts of climate change. In May 2020, melting permafrost caused a large storage tank near Norilsk to sink after weeks of unusually warm weather in the Arctic with the Ambarnaya River famously running red.   

One source estimated that as much as 29,000 tonnes (about 218,000 barrels) of diesel could have found its way into the soil and nearby water bodies. President Vladimir Putin declared a state of federal emergency in the Krasnoyarsk region as Norilsk Nickel, the owner of the tank, scrambled to try and contain the spill from contaminating the Arctic zone. 

Putin was incensed that the incident was only reported to the authorities two days later after pictures of the crimson river were shared online, and ordered Nornickel’ billionaire oligarch and part-owner, Vladimir Potanin, to bear the full costs of cleaning up the mess. Nornickel was fined nearly 150 billion rubles (~2 billion USD), marking the largest compensation for environmental damage in Russia’s history. 

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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