x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

National plan considered on oil spills

The Ministry of Environment and Water is considering a national plan to deal with destructive oil spills.

An oil spill blackens the coast of Fujairah in February last year. The Ministry of Environment and Water is considering a national plan to deal with oil spills along the UAE coast.
An oil spill blackens the coast of Fujairah in February last year. The Ministry of Environment and Water is considering a national plan to deal with oil spills along the UAE coast.

DUBAI // The Ministry of Environment and Water is considering a national plan to deal with destructive oil spills amid growing concern over the country's vulnerability. Khamis Bu-Amim, the president of the Regional Clean Sea Organisation (Resco), said the plan was ready and the question now was when the ministry would finalise it with the Government and approve it. The Resco is a consortium established in 1972 by oil companies in the region to co-ordinate emergency response.

Mr Bu-Amim made the announcement on the sidelines of a workshop for oil industry professionals on responses to accidents at sea. The UAE does not currently have a plan to deal with or contain oil spills. The Resco estimates the number of spills along the UAE coast to be more than 140 each year, many due to accidents in the storing and drilling of oil. Few companies are willing to disclose operational spills, said Mr Bu-Amim, adding that a proper framework and plan would help "educate" companies about their responsibilities.

The draft plan was presented to the ministry after it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Resco last year. At the time it was suggested the country would use satellite navigation systems and real-time satellite images to spot oil slicks and catch cargo ships that pollute coastal waters. In addition to an emergency plan, the country's approach could include training programmes and provisions for evaluating the impact of oil spills on marine life.

"The plan is the catalyst to everything you need to do," said John Dipple, the managing director of Seacor Environmental Services, an environmental consultancy and emergency services provider. The east coast of the UAE was suffering in particular from oil spills because of "deliberate or accidental dumping from ships", he said. The country is vulnerable because of the volume of marine traffic and the potential impact on the utilities and tourism sectors.

kshaheen@thenational.ae