The Government wishes to put the record straight in relation to its response to the ship wreck on Rennell Island on the night of 4th February and the subsequent oil leakage that commenced on 15 February 2019.
The primary responsibility for salvaging the ship, preventing and / or removing any oil leak from the ship and rehabilitation of any environmental consequences on the area, rests with the mining company that was granted the mining lease and that holds the development consent (APID), the company that is actually contracted to do the mining by APID who is also the charterer of the ship (Bintan Mining Solomon Islands Limited); the owners of the ship and the Insurers of the ship. The government is holding the first 3 parties responsible for the accident and all four parties for the clean-up and restoration of the environment.
Despite the above, the government was engaged with the investigation and assessment of the wreck right from 5th February. It has coordinated the development of a response plan to address the wreckage, contain and minimize the oil leakage, remove the oil from the ocean surface with the ultimate objective to rehabilitate the environment and remove the ship wreck from the reef.
The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO); the Chairman of the National Disaster Council; the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Authority and the Environmental Division of the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Disaster Management were engaged right from the 5th of February. The Ministry of Mines, Energy and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Relations, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, the Attorney General’s Chambers, and the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has also been involved in a whole of government approach to the disaster.
The Prime Minister convened the first of a few ‘whole-of-government’ meetings on Tuesday 19th February to assess the situation and agree on the government action plan to monitor as well as to activate other actions that maybe necessitated if the response from the companies that were primarily responsible were inadequate or not forthcoming in a manner that was acceptable to government.
The government established working relations with the salvaging team appointed by the insurers of the ship and have now been supplied with the response plan by the salvagers. The government also requested limited support from the Australian government to assist in particular aspects of the salvage operations.
Most of the aspects of the salvaging operation are now in place. We anticipate the oil leakage will be stopped within the next days. The focus will then shift to clean-up operations of the oil on the sea surface of the lagoon, the coast and the marine habitat. The government requires the company to remove and transport all remaining oil from the ship and to re-float and sail the ship away from its current location.
The Prime Minister will convene a Press Conference at 10 am tomorrow, Thursday 7 March 2019, to provide more details on the Rennell Ship wreck, the response by the government and its partners and the response by the companies. The Prime Minister will also discuss the likely human and social costs of the disaster.