x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Cargo ship filled with diesel sinks off UAE coast

Crew rescued as ship carrying 450 tonnes of diesel lies 35 metres under the sea off Umm Al Qaiwain coastline.

A cargo ship carrying 450 tonnes of diesel fuel has sunk off the coast of Umm Al Qaiwain.

Authorities said yesterday no diesel had escaped from the ship but they had taken all precautions to contain any possible environmental impact.

All the ship’s crew had to be rescued. It was not clear how many people were on board or exactly when the ship went down, although it is believed to have sunk at the weekend.

The vessel, the White Whale, is lying at a depth of 35 metres, 11 nautical miles off the coast.

The cause of the accident is still being investigated, the Ministry of Environment and Water said.

The ministry has sent a technical team to assess the damage and investigate the best method to offload the cargo and bring the vessel to shore.

“The team will collect information about the size, age, well-being and location of the sunken ship to take necessary measures to protect environmentally and economically sensitive facilities and breeding and nursing habitats of marine species,” said Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water.

“They are co-ordinating with other specialists and experts from federal and local authorities as well as the private sector,” Dr bin Fahad told Wam, the state news agency.

“Potential damage will also be assessed,” he said.

The ministry is collaborating with Umm Al Qaiwain municipality and coastguard as well as the Ministry of Interior and the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority. Dr Fahad said it was holding meetings “around the clock” to work out a plan to “handle any emergency”.

Spills of diesel fuel are considered less detrimental to the environment than spills of either light or heavy oils. Light oil contains high concentrations of toxic soluble compounds that can have severe effects on marine life, and heavy oils do not evaporate or dissolve and can lead to long-term contamination. Diesel fuel is moderately toxic and easier to clean up,

The UAE’s largest oil spill happened in 1994 when two oil tankers, Baynuna and Seki, collided off the coast of Fujairah. An estimated 16,000 metric tons of light Iranian crude oil were released, initially polluting 30 kilometres of coastline.

vtodorova@thenational.ae