26 Feb 2012

Diesel barge sunk in Antarctica

9:43 pm on 26 February 2012

The Brazilian navy has admitted that there is a risk of diesel leaking from a barge which sank in Antarctica in December.

The barge was carrying 10,000 litres of diesel to the Brazilian base in Antarctica - which was destroyed on Sunday by an explosion and fire.

The Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper says the Brazilian government tried to conceal the fact that a barge had sunk off the Antarctic coast.

The paper claims the Brazilian navy's recovery plan provides for possible spills of the diesel, which was manufactured by the Brazilian oil company Petrobras.

If a spill does occur, it could put Brazil in breach of the Antarctic Treaty, to which New Zealand is a party.

The paper says so far none of the 10,000 litres of diesel oil has leaked from the double-skinned barge. The fuel is a special non-coagulating variety.

The craft is lying in 40 metres of water off the Comandante Ferraz Antarctica Station in Admiralty Bay on King George Island, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The paper said images from a robotic submarine camera showed no signs of leakage from the double-skinned barge.

It reports a Brazilian navy ship and another ship chartered by Petrobras Oil will reach the site next week to try to retrieve the barge.