x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fishermen call for new marina after sea collapse

Officials say warnings not to use it have been ignored as three plunge into the sea but those who work in the industry insist they have no alternative.

UMM AL QAIWAIN // Fishermen are demanding that their fragile marina be replaced after three of them fell into the sea when a large section collapsed. The men escaped injury in Sunday's accident, scrambling back on to land with the help of coastguards and friends. But leaders of the Umm al Qaiwain Fishermen's Association said the marina had given way at least 10 times in recent years and it was time to act. Abdul Karim Mohammed, the association's president, said fishermen had been hurt in previous incidents. "This marina has been here for the last 30 years, it has never been maintained," he said. "Now it has become so dangerous, we want the authorities to build a new marina that would safeguard our lives." The association has put its case to Umm al Qaiwain Municipality and is awaiting a response.

A spokesman for the municipality said it had received numerous complaints from the association about the marina and would look for a solution. But fishermen had ignored warnings over its safety, he said. "We have asked the fishermen's association to stop people from working on this marina until we get the problem fixed but it has fallen on deaf ears," he said. "Even now, if you go there you will find some people sitting doing their work on the weak marina." Yesterday, there were seven fishermen sitting on the marina, fixing their nets. Hassan Ali, the association's deputy director, said they had no alternative. "There is no option, they have to do their work," he said. "We are trying to be conscious of the most vulnerable places and those that are still strong. The municipality should help to remove this and give us an alternative." Although there had been no deaths or serious injuries, Mr Ali said the marina was potentially very dangerous as there was deep water around it. Ansari Noordin, a Bangladeshi, said he had helped to pull a fellow fisherman from the water last year, and now watched carefully where he walked. Abdullah al Hamid, an Emirati fisherman, said natural factors and "climatic conditions" had caused the marina to collapse, but a lack of maintenance had not helped. Fishermen had tried to strengthen the marina using poles and wooden planks as they had no alternative but to work on it, he said. "One reason officials should be helpful is that fishing is one of the biggest income earners of most Emiratis in this emirate," said Mr al Hamid. "If such problems and risks are not sorted out many people will leave this profession." Saeed Ali, another Emirati fisherman, said he had spent Dh20,000 (US$5,400) building a small platform alongside the marina for him and his father after he saw that the marina was collapsing. "It was costly and very small, but life is more expensive. We can't risk our lives on something we see is collapsing," he said. Saif Saeed, 35, an Emirati, said the existing marina held important memories and he would not want to see it replaced. "The marina formed very important memories of our fathers and grandfathers who were fishermen," he said. ykakande@thenational.ae