Countries offer help to Tunisia tackle impact of fuel ship's sinking

The ship heading from Equatorial Guinea to Malta sank on Friday and the Tunisian navy rescued all seven crew members.

 A tug boat is pictured at the port of Gabes, after a merchant fuel ship sank off its coast the previous day, Tunisia April 16, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
A tug boat is pictured at the port of Gabes, after a merchant fuel ship sank off its coast the previous day, Tunisia April 16, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

Some countries have offered to help Tunisia prevent damage to the environment after a merchant ship carrying up to one thousand tonnes of oil sank off the coast of Gabes, the Tunisian defense ministry said on Sunday.

The ship heading from Equatorial Guinea to Malta sank on Friday and the Tunisian navy rescued all seven crew members.

The vessel carried between 750 tonnes and one thousand tonnes of fuel and sent a distress call seven miles away from Gabes to which the Tunisian navy responded, officials said.

The defense ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters that in order to control the environmental damage the Tunisian navy will work with countries that have expressed their desire to help.

Italy is one of the countries that have stepped up, they had offered to help and it is expected to send a naval vessel specialized in dealing with marine disasters, Local media said

Tunisia's Environment Minister Leila Chikhaoui attends a meeting after a merchant fuel ship sank off the coast of Gabes on Friday, Tunisia April 16, 2022. (credit: Tunisia Environment Ministry/Handout via REUTERS)Tunisia's Environment Minister Leila Chikhaoui attends a meeting after a merchant fuel ship sank off the coast of Gabes on Friday, Tunisia April 16, 2022. (credit: Tunisia Environment Ministry/Handout via REUTERS)

On Saturday, Tunisian authorities opened an investigation into the ship's sinking, which the environment ministry said was caused by bad weather.

It said barriers would be set up to limit the spread of the fuel and cordon off the ship, before suctioning the spillage.

The coast of the southern city of Gabes has suffered major pollution for years, with environmental organizations saying industrial plants in the area have been dumping waste directly into the sea.