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Did Los Llanitos' Grounding Damage the Environment?

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November 13, 2015

On Saturday, October 24, the bulk carrier Los Llanitos ran aground on rocks near Punta Graham, Barra de Navidad, some 25 nautical miles north of Manzanillo on Mexico's Pacific coast. (Photo credit: fleetmon)

Manzanillo, Mexico - A group of experts is trying to determine whether the grounding of the bulk-carrier Los Llanitos on the coast of the western Mexican state of Jalisco after Hurricane Patricia caused environmental damage, Profepa federal environmental protection agency chief Guillermo Haro said Tuesday.

Shipping company Representaciones Maritimas has agreed to complete the process of removing the 425,000 liters (112,279 gallons) of fuel aboard the ship in three or four weeks, depending on the weather, Haro said. All emergency protocols are being followed, making it highly unlikely that any fuel will spill into the ocean, Haro said in a press conference after touring the ship and flying over the area.

The 223-meter (731-foot) Los Llanitos ran aground on Oct. 23 near Punta Graham in the town of Barra de Navidad after Hurricane Patricia, a Category 5 storm packing winds of 305 kph (about 190 mph), made landfall in northwestern Mexico.

The ship sustained "cracks in sensitive areas" that caused fuel to spill into the sea, the Profepa said in a statement released on October 26.

The navy and Profepa responded by implementing an emergency plan to prevent damage to the marine ecosystem from fuel and other toxic substances.

Navy personnel, however, determined that marine life was not affected by the spill and further fuel recovery efforts were unnecessary.

Administrative proceedings have not been opened because "the environmental damage has not been determined until now," Haro said.

Profepa personnel and University of Guadalajara experts will evaluate whether the vessel caused environmental damage and present a technical opinion on the fate of Los Llanitos.

"The most important point in the environmental area on this coast is without a doubt protecting... Barra de Navidad Lagoon, the region's most important ecosystem," Haro said.

The lagoon is one of 27 sites listed under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, in the five states - Jalisco, Nayarit, Colima, Guerrero and Michoacan - affected by the hurricane, the Profepa director said.

Once the fuel and other toxic substances requiring special handling are removed from the ship, officials will decide whether the vessel should be broken up at the site, a process that can take around two years, or be sunk to create an artificial reef, Haro said.

Original article