x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Action needed to stop fuel leaking from ship that ran aground on Umm Al Quwain beach

People living close to the coastline have complained about a strong smell of diesel coming from the ship, which ran aground last week.

Seen here is Saidu, pulling rope that was cut off the boat onto a car. Lee Hoagland / The National
Seen here is Saidu, pulling rope that was cut off the boat onto a car. Lee Hoagland / The National

The crew of a ship that ran aground on an Umm Al Quwain beach last week are being investigated by police.

It is believed the vessel, Sunshine, was carrying about 160 tonnes of fuel when its engines stalled, reported Al Ittihad, the Arabic-language sister paper of The National. Police are in the process of emptying the ship’s three tanks.

The other ship that was beached this weekend in the emirate, MT Rawdha, has had its fuel tanks emptied. The vessel is adrift after running into trouble on Thursday during bad weather. None of its crew has been questioned by police.

Some of Sunshine’s fuel has leaked into the ocean.

People living close to the coastline have complained to authorities about a strong smell of diesel coming from the ship, which has been beached since Thursday.

Rashed Al Shehhi, director of Umm Al Quwain Hospital, said residents have had to turn off their air-conditioning units while sleeping as the diesel fumes enter their homes through the air vents.

He warned of potential pulmonary and respiratory complications.

Local authorities have warned swimmers against going near the ship. One man was taken to hospital after he developed a skin inflammation while swimming on Friday. There have also been reports of small shellfish dying as a result of the polluted waters.

A tugboat tried to pull the diesel carrier, which had a crew of six Indians, away from shallow waters on Friday but failed after it also became stuck.

A crisis meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation and how to prevent it from reoccurring led to a decision to offload the vessel’s fuel. The owners have also been given three days to remove the ship.

Police said the leak had resulted in minimal environmental damage. Authorities are also inspecting any fish being caught for commercial sale to ensure they are safe to consume.

Crew of the other ship, MT Rawdha, saw the diesel being offloaded. “We think it has all been emptied by now as one of the diesel vehicles has not returned and the only one still there was doing nothing,” said one man.

A security team including police and coastguards was also on the scene monitoring both ships.   

The Rawdha’s crew tried to refloat their ship on Sunday, but with no success.

A third ship, Tak, has been employed to pull the ship back into the ocean. A team of mechanics are also in the process of fixing its engines, said Sadiq Omair, the owner.

Mr Omair, an Emirati, said the ship had run into trouble while heading from Ajman to Abu Dhabi.

“If we can refloat it we shall take it back to Ajman Port,” he said.

Naresh Kumar, the captain, said the ship’s troubles began shortly after it left Ajman Port.

“We lost our anchor and the engine broke into two. We could not move ahead and the wind drifted us to this place,” he said.

The ship has a crew of seven including Mr Omair and Mr Kumar.

UAQ has a history of ships running aground on its beaches.

In June the Iraqi owner and Sudanese captain of the White Whale, which sank off the coast in 2011 carrying several hundred tonnes of diesel, were each fined Dh24,000 by the emirate’s appeals court.

Both the owner and the captain were found guilty of failing to prevent and reduce pollution after the sinking; entering the territorial waters of the state without proper documentation; carrying diesel into the country in an ill-prepared vessel; and carrying diesel without the proper documentation.

ykakande@thenational.ae