Motor Boats Monthly secures an exclusive chat with the Hampshire harbourmaster overseeing the clean-up of the Esso oil spill in the Solent

An oil spill in The Solent that leaked 20 barrels of vacuum gas oil into the water has been contained.

Harbourmaster Captain Philip Holliday stepped in to coordinate the response teams after an Esso pipeline leaked at Fawley terminal on Sunday 20 June.

“Esso brought in their own contractors and put out containment booms to stop the oil spreading in the water around Fawley but it soon came to our attention that not all of the oil had been contained,” he said.

“From then on the Harbour Authority for Southampton took responsibility for initiating our own response.”

Once contained within 2m booms, the teams used large sponge pads and skimmers to soak up most of the oil before running a propeller through it to break up the residue into smaller droplets.

Describing the scene, Capt Holliday said, “It’s a kind of heating oil, not in the slightest like the black oil people imagine. It’s somewhere between a diesel and a thick oil. There isn’t much of an appearance to it. It’s light in colour but thicker than water.”

One onlooker described the spill as a “sheen on the surface of the water but not an oil slick by any means.”

Fareham Borough Council is said to be satisfied that the oil has been removed from the water and is focusing its efforts on cleaning the beaches between Hill Head Harbour and Meon Chalets, which have been closed to the public.

Access to the area has been reinstated for all crafts but people are advised not to swim near the area.

An Esso spokesman said in a statement: “Work to recover and disperse the oil from the water has taken place and the marine-based response has now been closed. Monitoring of the marine environment will continue.”

“Unfortunately, some oil has been found in areas along the coastline. The oil is at a very low concentration and, at this level, represents a very low risk to health.”

Anyone who has come into contact with the oil can remove it using soap and water and, if they have further concerns, should contact their GP.

The Environment Agency has launched an investigation to assess the environmental impact of the spill.