cargo ship runs aground in the galapagos

Image: Consejo de Gobierno de Galápagos

The government of Ecuador has declared a 180-day state of emergency in response to the grounding of the freighter Floreana on Jan. 28. The ship, which was carrying about 1,400 tons of cargo, including food and construction materials, and 13,000 gallons of fuel, ran aground in Naufragio Bay on San Cristobal.

Officials said in a statement that it should take 15 days to remove the fuel and cargo from the ship and refloat it so it can be towed to sea and scuttled. Booms are being used to contain leaking fuel.

The emergency declaration was made in order to free up resources to remove the vessel and deal with any environmental fallout. Last week, Galapagos governor Jorge Torres said in an interview that the vessel “is quite run down” after the stranding.

“There is no kind of environmental damage. The greatest danger has passed. Since the ship ran aground there has not been any fuel spilled,” Torres told The Wall Street Journal during a phone interview.

Torres said that 85%-88% of the fuel had already been removed from the vessel and that there is “no imminent environmental risk,” though he admitted that there was some risk as long as the ship remains stranded.

Last May, the freighter Galapaface I ran aground off the coast of San Cristobal. It took crews over a month to remove its fuel and cargo before it was towed to sea and scuttled. Prior to the loss of Galapaface I, four ships were used to bring cargo to the islands.

The non-profit WildAid estimates that 50,000 tons of cargo was shipped from the mainland to the Galapagos in 2010. They project, based on current tourism and population growth rates in the islands, that this number will increase to 150,000 tons by 2040.