Are Fujairah oil spills caused by tankers illegally cleaning their holds?

General manager of Fujairah port calls for 24-hour monitoring to clamp down on tankers causing local oil spills
Oil spills off Fujairah have become more prevalent and risk real economic and environmental damage.
Oil spills off Fujairah have become more prevalent and risk real economic and environmental damage.

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Captain Mousa Murad, general manager of the Port of Fujairah has called for 24 hour monitoring of tankers passing the east coast of the UAE to avoid deliberate oil spills.

The comments were made to The National after an oil spill hit the Fujairah coast in late January that Murad says is caused by tankers illegally cleaning their holds at sea.

“The recent spills have been caused by tank cleaning by passing ships,” he says. “Especially when tankers change from [carrying] one product to another."

Capt Murad said the port is working with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and the UAE Armed Forces to address the problem.

In addition to these bodies, the Arabian Gulf is also monitored by he Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre and the Regional Organisation for the Protection of the Marine Environment.

According to Murad, however, this is not enough.

“It requires 24-hour monitoring. This is what happens in Europe and Scandinavia and Japan so you can take an action immediately when someone is polluting the water,” he said.

The Al Aqah spill in January affected tourism and damaged marine life. Last year, the east coast of the UAE was hit by several oil spills.

Salah Al Rayssi, director of the fisheries sustainability department at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, said the ministry is working to enhance an oil-spill monitoring and detection system.

“The UAE has enacted laws banning the throwing of waste and oil sludge into the water by the hundreds of tankers operating in the region,” he said. “The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment works closely with local authorities to respond in real-time to oil spill incidents by overseeing the clean-up of contaminated beaches along the east coast of the UAE and finding the perpetrators, holding them accountable for their actions.”

The UAE’s territory extends to 12 nautical miles in water. Under the UAE’s Federal Law No 24, all marine means of transportation are prohibited from discharging or disposing of oil or oil mixture into the marine environment. Penalties include imprisonment and fines of up to Dh1 million.

But most of these incidents happen in international waters where it becomes more difficult to police.

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