Southeast Asia, we need to talk about bilge dumping

The waste oil dumped into the ocean by ships every year is equivalent to eight Exxon Valdez oil spills, and nowhere is the problem as severe as Southeast Asia. The EB Podcast talks to hotelier Andrew Dixon about how a clever idea using a ship tracking system can help curb an environmental crime that has been largely ignored.

Oil clumps on a beach in the resort island of Bintan, Indonesia, near Singapore.

At least one ship a day dumps its waste oil in Indonesian waters, an expert in satellite imaging analysis commented in an interview with Eco-Business last year.

Southeast Asia is the world’s hot spot for bilge dumping — the illegal discharge of waste oily water from a ship’s bilge.

The effects on the regional bloc’s coastline are clearly visible, with thick clumps of oily sludge covering beaches, smothering coal reefs, and ruining fishermen’s gear.

But alarmingly little is being done to stop bilge dumping. It is rare that ships are caught, rarer still that a ship operator is prosecuted for an act that breaches the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, or Marpol.

Andrew Dixon, director, Nikoi Island resort

Andrew Dixon, director, Nikoi island and Cempedak

Andrew Dixon, who runs two luxury island resorts in Indonesia, Nikoi Island and Cempedak, has witnessed firsthand the consequences of bilge dumping, and has been using technology to limit the problem. A tracking system on his resort sends automatic emails to the ships as they approach, letting them know they are being watched.

Dixon joins the Eco-Business Podcast to talk about:

  • The consequences of bilge dumping
  • Why ships do it
  • Why aren’t local authorities acting?
  • What can be done to tackle the problem
  • The future of our seas


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