QUITO – The Peruvian training ship Mollendo caused no environmental damage to the Galapagos coast where it ran aground over the weekend with 300 people aboard and carrying some 200 tanks of bunker fuel, Ecuadorian maritime officials said.
The maneuvers required to tug the ship free caused no environmental damage, though the vessel was transporting fuel banned by archipelago authorities, Puerto Ayora harbormaster Washington Tamayo told Efe.
The ship was unable to anchor Saturday afternoon where it should have because of a mechanical failure that forced it to keep going forward, Tamayo said.
That maneuver left the training ship in such a position that waves constantly struck its stern.
Galapagos National Park divers with cameras verified that neither the hull nor the propeller blades caused any damage, so the decision was taken to tow it to Puerto Ayora, the capital of Santa Cruz Island, with the help of three other vessels, Tamayo said.
“It was done in a secure way with never any danger of spilling waste water or fuel,” Tamayo said, adding that the Peruvian ship used bunker fuel, which is heavier than diesel, a mixture of gas-oil and crude residues that ships are not allowed to use in the Galapagos Islands.
“We didn’t know it was running on that kind of fuel,” Tamayo said.
“The Peruvian military never told us about (the ship using) that kind of fuel,” the harbormaster said, adding that he consequently allowed it to enter.
The ship, 153 meters (502 feet) long, was carrying 200 tanks of bunker fuel, Ecuavisa television reported.
The Peruvian vessel “did not have authorization to enter with bunker fuel,” Ecuadorian navy navigation chief Jaime Ayala told the television network.
Since 2001 when the ship Jessica caused a spill after running aground in Naufragios Bay at San Cristobal Island with 900,000 liters (238,000 gallons) of fuel aboard, maritime officials in the archipelago have restricted the use of bunker fuel due to the threat it poses for the ecosystem.
The Galapagos Islands are highly protected as an extraordinary reserve of marine and terrestrial biodiversity, a treasure that inspired British scientist Charles Darwin to develop his theory about the origin and natural selection of species.
The islands are located some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of the continental coasts of Ecuador and owe their name to the species of giant tortoises that live there. EFE