Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 November 2019

Ministry looking into tackling east coast oil spills, FNC member says

The spills are being caused by tankers discharging oily ballast water into the sea before going into port, and the five kilometre-long spill that hit Kalba shores on Friday is the second time it has happened off the Sharjah town in just a month.
A fourth oil spill in three months has hit the east coast of the country, preventing fishermen from taking to the water. Courtesy Ahmad Darwish
A fourth oil spill in three months has hit the east coast of the country, preventing fishermen from taking to the water. Courtesy Ahmad Darwish

FUJAIRAH // The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is looking at recommendations on how to prevent deliberate oil spills and punish those responsible, an FNC member said after a fourth spill in three months at the weekend.

The pollution is caused by tankers discharging oily ballast water into the sea before going into port, and the five kilometre-long spill that hit Kalba shores on Friday is the second time it has happened off the Sharjah town in a month.

“Laws are available but the implementation process and mechanism should be reviewed to prevent oil spills from happening,” said Salem Al Shamsi, a Federal National Council member for Sharjah.

“We discussed about 10 recommendations recently with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment that focus on protecting the environment and the marine life while monitoring and punishing those who are responsible for any pollution act.

“A number of oil spills occurred this year and that is a sign to take action and look for solutions to solve the problem and find the right mechanism to implement the law.”

Another FNC member said that new technologies and further measures must be adopted to prevent such spills from happening.

“Certain measures have to be taken by the federal authorities to preserve and protect the environment, especially in the east coast region, where it’s the most important bunkering area for the fuel tanks,” said Dr Saeed Al Mutawa, a member for Sharjah.

Two of the recent spills led to a swimming ban in Al Aqah hotels, affecting tourism, while the others prevented Kalba fishermen from taking to the water for days.

“This needs to be followed up with certain advanced technologies such as satellite tracking systems to pinpoint the responsible vessels for the leakage in order to implement the penalties,” Dr Al Mutawa said.

According to Federal Law 24 of 1999, for the protection and development of the environment, all marine means of transportation are prohibited from discharging or disposing of oil or oil mixture into the marine environment, regardless of their nationality or registration status in the UAE.

Any person who violates the law shall be punished by imprisonment and a fine not less than Dh150.000 and not exceeding Dh1 million.

If the act was committed by a fishing boat not exceeding 70ft in length, the punishment will be imprisonment and fine or either of the two penalties.

On Wednesday, surface fishermen said they were worried about marine life as the oil is now covering five kilometres of coastline from Kalba fishing port to Khor Kalba and Alqurm areas.

“We can’t pull our boats from the water as the oil is covering the ropes and the beach. Our business has been affected and we can’t do anything about it,” said Ahmad Darwish.

“The authorities should take action as it’s unhealthy to catch and sell the fish during this time. It might be covered with oil and affect consumer health.

“The municipality has sent some workers today and they installed protection nets at the entrance of Alqurm protected area to prevent any oil from going inside.”

Dr Saif Al Ghais, a marine scientist and executive director of Ras Al Khaimah Environment Protection and Development Authority, said during an earlier spill that dumping such substances can definitely affect marine life.

“The effect may vary depending on the oil classification. Light crude oil causes less damage than heavy crude oil, which creates tar, but both can affect surface marine species and birds,” said Dr Al Ghais.

“If the oil reaches the beach, it may also cause harm to the microscopic creatures and other species that live on the sand near the water, such as small worms and seashells.”

rhaza@thenational.ae

Updated: June 1, 2017 04:00 AM

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