Ministerial Statement on the Pasir Panjang Terminal Oil Spill Incident

Jul 2, 2024

Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at Parliamentary Sitting on 2 July 2024


Mr Speaker, sir, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment have given an update on the progress of the seaward and shoreline clean-up operations.

I will now elaborate on the efforts taken by agencies and the community to contain and mitigate the immediate impacts of the oil spill on our coastal and marine wildlife, the impact thus far and the potential longer-term impact on biodiversity and habitats, as well as our action plan in the months to come.

Immediate Actions Taken by Agencies to Mitigate Impacts

From the onset of the incident, agencies worked together and moved quickly to contain and mitigate the immediate effects and impact of the oil spill on our coastal and marine biodiversity and habitats.

Affected beaches and shorelines were closed off to safeguard public health and safety, and frontline workers were deployed to clean up affected areas such as East Coast Park, Labrador Nature Reserve, Sentosa, as well as St John’s, Lazarus, and Kusu Islands.

NParks deployed over 1.5 km of oil-absorbent booms to protect biodiversity-sensitive coastal and marine areas, including Berlayer Creek and the Rocky Shore along Labrador Nature Reserve. These booms contained the spread of the oil, and facilitated clean-up operations along affected beaches and shorelines.

As some oil was detected off Changi on 17 June, agencies also pre-emptively deployed booms around biodiversity-sensitive areas, such as at Chek Jawa Wetlands at Pulau Ubin, Coney Island Park, and Pasir Ris Park as preventive measure

Near-term Impact of the Oil Spill on Biodiversity

To ascertain the immediate impact on our marine biodiversity, agency representatives, scientists, as well as volunteers from the Friends of Marine Park and S.E.A. Aquarium had conducted preliminary surveys at St John’s Island, Sentosa, Labrador Nature Reserve, Sisters’ Island Marine Park, as well as the site of the second Marine Park at the Southern part of Lazarus Island and the reef off Kusu Island, between 16 and 25 June.

Based on the visual surveys thus far, oil was sighted along the upper intertidal zones of biodiversity-sensitive sites at Labrador rocky shore, Tanjong Rimau and Serapong at Sentosa, Bendera Bay at St John’s Island, Eagle Bay at Lazarus Island, as well as the outer mangrove fringes at the mouth of Berlayer Creek near Labrador Nature Reserve. However, the intertidal zones at other biodiversity-sensitive areas such as Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, other Southern islands, Changi Beach Park, Pasir Ris Park and Chek Jawa Wetlands at Pulau Ubin appear to be largely unaffected. Similarly, the mangroves at West Coast Park and Pasir Ris Park also appear to be largely unaffected. Notwithstanding this, we will continue to monitor these sites closely.

As of end-June, NParks and animal welfare groups such as ACRES have rescued four collared kingfishers from the oil spill, two of which were received by NParks’ Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation. Despite prompt veterinary care, two of the four kingfishers unfortunately died, but the other two appear to have stabilised and we are monitoring their condition.

Longer-term Impact of the Oil Spill on Biodiversity

While no significant impact on our marine biodiversity and wildlife has been observed thus far, the situation remains dynamic, and there could be a time-lag between the oil spill and its effects on our biodiversity and habitats.

Some of the impact on our marine and coastal ecosystems may only show up weeks, or even months later, such as during spawning periods. Assessments of the environmental impact of the oil spill on our offshore islands are therefore also still ongoing.

Based on our experience with the oil spill that affected the intertidal and seagrass habitats at Tanah Merah back in 2010, as well as the oil spill that affected Chek Jawa Wetlands at Pulau Ubin and Changi Beach Park in 2017, while our ecosystems are resilient, they will take time to recover from such external stressors.

At Tanah Merah, the intertidal and seagrass habitats started to recover after one year, and no longer show any signs of impact from the 2010 oil spill today. At Changi Beach Park, long-term biodiversity surveys have showed no discernible changes to the intertidal fauna before and after the oil spill in 2017.

We will closely monitor the impact on and recovery of our marine habitats and biodiversity including seagrasses, corals and aquatic wildlife, through intertidal and subtidal biodiversity surveys. NParks will also undertake rescue and rehabilitative efforts for affected wildlife where necessary.

Collective Action by the Community

Over the past few weeks, we are heartened by the public’s response and support. More than 1,500 individuals have signed up to help with oil spill management efforts. An additional 2,000 have registered their interest to be kept updated on ongoing efforts and future volunteering opportunities.

As of 1 July, we have deployed over 700 volunteers, including volunteers from the Public Hygiene Council (PHC), and the Friends of Marine Park. Organisations, such as the Singapore Veterinary Association, World Wildlife Fund for Nature (Singapore), Singapore Canoe Federation and many more, have stepped forward to offer help in their own ways.

These volunteers have been involved in a wide range of efforts. Some joined NParks to patrol East Coast Park and West Coast Park, advising members of the public to stay away from affected beaches and areas as well as reporting sightings of oil stains and oil-slicked wildlife for rescue and rehabilitation if needed. Members of the public can contact NParks’ 24-hour Animal Response Centre hotline , if they encounter an oil-slicked animal.

As I shared briefly earlier, marine experts and volunteers from the Friends of Marine Park have also been carrying out surveys with NParks on St John’s Island and Lazarus Island, to track the impact on biodiversity on these islands.

We are very grateful to our volunteers for their strong support, and to members of the public, nature groups and other organisations for coming together alongside our frontline workers and colleagues to mitigate the impacts of the oil spill.

Action Plan Going Forward

As we move into our next phase of managing the impact of the oil spill, we will work closely with our partners from nature and community groups, organisations, and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), and tap on their knowledge and expertise to implement an action plan to manage the impacts more effectively.

During a recent consultation with these partners, some suggestions were raised, which we will be incorporated into actionable plans.

First, we will work with various stakeholder networks to disseminate information to keep the public updated on the progress of recovery efforts.

Through our partners, we hope to share information on the recovery and response operations, that can be translated into advisories and information guides for members of the public. For example, Bird Society of Singapore and Otter Watch will work with us to share tips with members of the public on the dos and don’ts when spotting oil-slicked wildlife.

Second, we will involve the wider community for coastal clean-ups and citizen patrols.

In the next six months and beyond, once NEA has assessed the affected areas to be safe for public access, we will work with our partners on recovery efforts, such as coastal clean-ups and beach patrols and surveys.

In fact, community beach clean-up groups, such as Stridy and International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS), have already started to coordinate their respective networks so that they can organise beach clean-ups, once we can do so.

Third, we will work with partners to tap on their expertise and skills to support wildlife rescue and recovery efforts.

Partners from Mandai Wildlife Group, Singapore Veterinary Association, ACRES, and the S.E.A. Aquarium, with their own pool of veterinarians, have offered to support wildlife rescue and rehabilitation efforts where needed.

Fourth, we will continue to undertake impact assessments and sustained post-incident biodiversity impact monitoring, surveys, and research, in collaboration with the nature community and volunteers, scientific communities and IHLs. These efforts will inform subsequent ecological recovery action plans.

And fifth, we will conduct scientific research with the scientific community, to better understand the longer-term impacts of the oil spill on biodiversity. We have already started surveys at the Southern Islands and Labrador Nature Reserve, as well as Serapong and Tanjong Rimau in Sentosa.


Sir, to conclude, while impact of the oil spill on our marine biodiversity and habitats have not been observed to be significant as of now, we will remain vigilant, and keep a close watch on the longer-term impacts.

Once again, we would like to extend my gratitude to our many partners and community volunteers, who have leaned forward and worked hand in hand with our colleagues in our agencies to manage the oil spill. With your help, we will be able to ensure that our ecosystems remain resilient.

The incident is not over yet, but we have made some good progress, and we will continue to work with the community and our partners to safeguard our natural marine habitats .

Thank you, Sir.