The ship Xelo, loaded with “about 750 tons of diesel” from Egypt to Malta, sank this Saturday off the southeast coast of Tunisia, about 7 km from the coast of the Gulf of Gabes. The authorities claim to be able to avoid large-scale pollution.
The ship, 58 meters long and 9 meters wide and flying the flag of Equatorial Guinea, had asked to enter Tunisian waters on Friday evening due to poor weather conditions. About 7 km off the coast of the Gulf of Gabes, the tanker began taking on water, according to the ministry. The water seeped into the engine room and rose to a height of nearly two meters.
The interviewed crew
The Tunisian authorities then evacuated the seven-man crew on board the ship in distress. According to the court spokesman, the crew members, consisting of a Georgian captain, four Turks and two Azerbaijanis, were briefly “taken to the hospital for control and accommodated in a hotel”. You will be interrogated to understand the reasons for the sinking of the ship.
Interviewed by national television at midday, Environment Minister Leila Chikhaoui confirmed the situation was “under control”. “There are minimal leaks that are not even visible to the naked eye (…) so there shouldn’t be a disaster in the Gulf of Gabes,” said Mohamed Karry, spokesman for the Gabes court, which opened an investigation to determine the causes of the accident.
Avoiding a “marine environmental disaster”
Authorities quickly “activated the national marine pollution prevention emergency plan with the aim of controlling the situation and avoiding the spread of pollutants,” according to the Environment Ministry. The Departments of Defence, Interior, Transport and Customs are working to “avoid a marine environmental disaster in the region and limit its impact,” according to the same source.
The last marine casualty involving Tunisia dates back to October 2018, when a Tunisian ro-ro vessel L’Ulysse collided with a Cypriot container vessel CLS Virginia 28 km off Cap Corse, France. At that time, 600 tons of fuel had leaked from the Cypriot container ship, requiring the intervention of French and Italian ships and the European Maritime Agency to limit sea pollution.