On 18th October 2004, crude oil leak from a sub-sea pipeline transporting crude from offshore oil fields to an onshore crude oil terminal spilled into the South China Sea, 2km off the southwest coast of Labuan Island. Within one hour, oil slick landed on a public beach, and two days later was spotted on a Marine Park beach, about 35 km from Brunei waters.

PETRONAS Carigali's Emergency Control Centers were activated, and relevant agencies were notified immediately. A Tier 1 response was upgraded quickly to a Tier 2 response coordinated by Labuan Beach Cleanup Committee, consisting of members from various government authorities, oil and gas industries, NGOs and the Petroleum Industry Malaysia Mutual Aid Group (PIMMAG). Great efforts were put in to prevent the spill from moving to Brunei waters, which could have escalated into a more complicated Tier 3 response, and activated the Malaysia National Oil Spill Control Contingency Plan and Standard Operating Procedure for Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.

Established Emergency Response Plan, Oil Spill Contingency Plan and Notification Procedures, coupled with established working relationship with the members of Labuan Beach Cleanup Committee has contributed to the quick 18-day cleanup operations. The use of proper equipment and dispersant, deployment of oil spill response experts and more than 500 oil spill responders has also contributed to the successful cleanup operations.

A post cleanup environmental impact assessment was conducted and concluded that impacts were localized and temporary, with no significant damage to the marine environment. The presence of gastropods, crustacean and fishes at the spills sites within weeks after the cleanup operations indicates good biological recovery.

This paper demonstrates the importance of collaboration between the government agencies and the industries in order to effectively respond to the spill. It also discussed the problems encountered and overcome along the way. This experience proves that an oil spill event can be responded quickly to, economically, and with minimum environmental damage if there is proper planning, effective communication, coupled with a highly cooperative response organization.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.