Our Sticky Situation

Posted: May 28, 2010 in Current Affairs

(Image source: Maritime Bulletine)

Last Tuesday, a bulk carrier collided with a Malaysian oil tanker, resulting in a 5,000-tonne spillage of crude oil into our waters. According to Victor Shum from oil consultancy Purvin & Gertz, this seems insignificant as compared to the current Gulf of Mexico spillage, which has poured approximately 25,000-tonne and is still continuing to leak. He further supported that it will not affect shipping traffic if the spill is contained.

From a social constructionist’s perspective, this oil spill seems small scale and trivial. However, I think that it may not be appropriate to compare this spill to the Gulf of Mexico spillage as Singapore is much smaller, hence the impact of a 5000-tonne spill may  cause drastic consequences.

One of the main areas affected by the spill would be our coastal regions. A large segment of the East Coast Park has been closed as a result of the pollution caused by the oil spill. This is an immediate effect felt by the park-goers, who visit the park as a form of recreation. It has been reported that the air is filled with a pungent stench; a strong deterrent to people who wish to visit the park. With the spill, one of Singapore’s most popular parks is no longer a pleasant place to visit.

Water sports are also no longer feasible due to the pollution. As an avid sea sports hobbyist, I can no longer sail during this period as Singapore’s best location for sailing is not available due to the accident.

The spill attributed to the ceasure of various other recreational sports like wake-boarding and fishing. Companies that provide such recreational sports will have to seek an alternative location to the popular spot at East Coast. With a decline in visitors to the East Coast Park, the F&B industry  is expected to face a decline in sales too. Businesses in these industries will feel the sting from this spill.

Although the media has portrayed the oil spill to be ‘contained’, a recent trip to to East Coast park has revealed that the beach is in a quagmire state. As of now, the beach along the shoreline is enveloped with a layer of sludge.

The different perspectives reported in the news reports caused some confusion to me . A spokesperson from Advanced Emissions Technologies told the Agence France-Presse that the leak is “more or less contained” and “won’t spread” out of the cleanup zone, while according to The Associated Press, “oil dispersants and 3,300 metres of containment booms deployed by officials have been unsuccessful in keeping the slick from fouling the coast”. The National Environment Agency  said  “the situation has stablised as large patches of oil have been removed by dispersants”. Depending on the purpose of the text, it seems that each agency carries their own agenda in reporting what is said to be the “truth” of the situation to the public.

From my personal opinion, I think that AET portrayed control over the situation as they are involved in the clean up. If they were to display any lack of confidence, it might depict their incapability and poor expertise in the industry. Friends, what do you think of the different perspectives on the situation and the agendas by the above-mentioned agencies?


Yahoo! News

Maritime Bulletine

  1. Caitlin says:

    i think you made a very good point about how in Singapore’s context, the oil spill is detrimental due to its size. and this is further supported by examples of recreational activities which are no longer feasible.

    also, i like how you stated that “each agency carries their own agenda in reporting what is said to be the “truth” of the situation to the public”. i believe not just all agencies, but individuals will like to portray the best sides of themselves, hence all the different perspectives that are in their own interests. =)

  2. Pollution should never be taken lightly.
    Although I have heard about it in the news, your post really gave me an in-depth view on the how this accident has affected not just the environment, but the many patrons of East Coast Park.
    However, I feel that all these inconsistencies in the media are even more worrying than the oil spill!
    Fortunately for this issue, you were able to see for yourself, the actual damage this terrible event has caused to East Coast Park.
    What if it was something about somewhere far away, or had no access to?
    Who would we believe then?

    • Rawbeanladen says:

      Perhaps one of the reasons why the media chose depict a less significant impact caused by the oil spill might be to minimize the public’s reactions. By diverting attention away from this issue, they could focus on other pressing issues that seem more important (such as the economy) while allowing the authorities to rectify the mess.

  3. -cL says:

    i think that when agencies “report” to the public about such situations, they are agenda motivated. They might withhold the truth so that they can portray themselves in a better light. They could say that the situation is under control, or that it is small-scale and does not have much impact, but really, who can judge whether the impact is small or huge? For water-sports enthusiasts, the impact may be bigger than for people who hardly visit the East Coast Park.

    Different news agencies might report different information because they might have gotten the news from different sources. As such, i think that we should bear in mind where the source of information came from so as to help us in judging the credibility of the news.

    • Rawbeanladen says:

      Your opinion is very logical in explaining how the agencies’ source of information may influence their coverage of the news. I agree that their judgment of the situation is very subjective and different parties will consider the severity of the impact differently, especially if they have any self-serving bias. In this technology and media-driven age, we need to be extremely careful in what we choose to believe in.

  4. Angel says:

    I believe the media portrayed the idea that the whole situation has been controlled to avoid any unwanted attention. The influence of media is impactful hence any negative news on how the government handles such cases will reflect badly and may thus create unnecessary commotion.

    However do you think the public will appreciate better if the media reports on the truth without any agenda and will the government allow such move.

    • Rawbeanladen says:

      I understand where you’re coming from. With regards to downplaying the severity, the media is probably trying not to cause any undue alarm as the situation would eventually be brought under control.

      However I think that some citizens might want to know the true situation. This would be more likely to be possible if our news agencies do not pay any allegiance to the government, which we know is not true, of course.

      • Felicia says:

        I see the media as a body of the government as for a media company to be established in a country is for them to avoid the many sensitive issues the government do not want to come clear with. For Singaporeans, they would just believe what they are told on paper as they have been ‘taught’ not to question unless one is familiar with the news discourse like you and I. I don’t think whether the agencies’ ability to control the situation has got to do with us anymore after all everything is handled by the government and not many people really bothers know more about the situation. After all, we ARE living in the Age of Ignorant.

        • Rawbeanladen says:

          What you raised up is a classic example of media hegemony, and it is no secret that our news agency is pro-government. We read what the government wants us to, as a result of the regulation that they have over our papers and even the Internet.

          We are however free from the strict Chinese regulations (in China) which pass off as ridiculous. Do the Chinese have ‘freedom’? I’m glad that our government does not resort to such radical approaches.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I personally was at East Coast Park during the period of time after majority of oil was cleared up. Indeed there was a significant decrease in the amount of people visiting the area and businesses were affected.

    I believed that the agencies gave quite reasonable assurance to the public as it is also difficult to physically measure exactly the extent of the pollution. I also feel that its not that they lack the confidence but instead the pollution has indeed reached an acceptable standard and allowing the fumes to disperse naturally, thus trying to minimize further inconvenience caused to the public and businesses in the area.

    • Rawbeanladen says:

      Your assessment backs up the foresight of the authorities, which I’m glad did not fail in cleaning up this sticky situation.

      Now that the situation is normalized, I certainly do hope that East Coast Park can be restored to its former condition.

  6. Kuanyi says:

    I think that whenever a spokesperson claims that an spill is contained, they should publicly drink the alleged clean water. Having said that, there isn’t much aquatic life present in the shores of Singapore, so at least the oil spill won’t have a bad effect on the animals. We don’t have any whales, dolphins or seals, just icky fish no one eats anyway. The only problem is that it’s smelly and you can’t go swimming there. Which means East Coast is still exactly the same as it was before, in my opinion.

    • Rawbeanladen says:

      That’s an interesting view on how the spokesperson should further support their statements. Their assessment of the situation could be relative, because when compared to the Gulf spill, our water is indeed cleaner than theirs.

      Ironically the oil spill in the Gulf has led to the discovery of new species of fish, but I doubt we’d make similar discoveries.

  7. Dawn Hee says:

    You have made a valid point on how “it seems that each agency carries their own agenda in reporting what is said to be the “truth” of the situation to the public.” They do this to put themselves in a better light. As such, I suppose we, as consumers of the media, have to be more discerning and aware of what the media is feeding to us.

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