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Strange oil problems plague Kume Island

Date Posted: 2006-03-10

Kume Island fisherman are scratching their heads—and worrying—about a mysterious oil problem that is fouling their engine filters.

It’s never happened before, they say, but a sticky black oil is accumulating around engine filters. That, the fishermen say, is causing engines not to start. The trouble began a few weeks ago, and appears limited to boats within the Kume Island Fishermen’s Association. “Until last year, there was nothing in the way of trouble with sticky oil coming to our filters,” says one fisherman. “We don’t know where it is coming from, or how, or why. It’s really strange.”

An association official says “we’ve been investigating the engine oil and heavy oil which fishing boats use, be we can’t find anything wrong with the heavy oil quality.” That is perplexing, he says, because the sticky black oil is somehow fouling engines and fishermen are afraid.

The fishing boats venture far out onto ocean waters, often hundreds of kilometers from any land. “If the engines stop outside, we’ll never come back home,” one worried fisherman lamented. “We need to know”, he said, “where and why this oil is coming into our filters.” He and other fishermen are asking for help in finding solutions in how to wash away the black oil.

Okinawa Electronic Company’s Kume Island branch is also experiencing some mysterious things with their oil filters. “What is it,” asks the manager. “Oil filters are dirtier than usual this year, and we have automatic cleaning systems for oil filters.” This year, he says, the filters have already been cleaned 2-3 times more than is normally done in an entire year.

“Within the last five years, we didn’t have any trouble with our filters,” he says. “All boat filters now have too much black sticky oil and are choking.” Beginning in January, fishermen and maintenance teams began cleaning every pipe and hose in boats, trying to clean things up. It hasn’t helped, and the black sticky oil is still fouling filters.

Fishing Boat Captain Masafumi Maeda says “My boat never before had trouble with filters, but this year for the first time we have trouble. We doubt there is anything wrong with the boat, so we don’t know why.” Another fishing boat turned back after heading to fishing grounds after he experienced engine problems.

An association spokesman says “recent oil cost increases make everything so expensive that now the fisherman’s life is getting harder and harder.” On top of that, he says, “Now, suddenly, we have this filter trouble. We need to know why the reason.” He’s asking experts to step in and help them.

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