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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Tankers suspected as Fujairah shores count cost of oil leak

Residents call for stronger monitoring of the coastline

Oil washes onshore at the Miramar hotel from an oil spill out at sea in Aqah, Fujairah. Juman Jarallah / The National
Oil washes onshore at the Miramar hotel from an oil spill out at sea in Aqah, Fujairah. Juman Jarallah / The National

The shoreline along Aqah in Fujairah was tainted with black oil Saturday forcing swimmers and divers out of the water for a second day this weekend.

“There is still oil everywhere,” said Michela Colella, manager of Divers Down UAE. “It’s horrible.”

A clean-up crew arrived on location Saturday to help restore the coastline.

The oil first washed up on shore in the popular Northern Emirate coast on Friday, prompting the dive company to cancel afternoon excursions, as the oil could have damaged the boat engine and equipment. All dives were cancelled Saturday. Patrons of waterfront beach resorts were forced to avoid the sea.

“Nobody is swimming today, and the hotel is quite full,” said Ms Colella.

Fishing equipment was also damaged in the spill, said Ahmed Al Balooshi, managing director of Fujairah International Marine Club.

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Read more:

Oil spill on UAE east coast forces divers and swimmers out of water

Fourth oil spill in three months hits Fujairah

National Editorial: Deliberate oil spills need to be stopped

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“The hotels, especially the beach hotels, they are depending on the sea tourist and marine tourist, but unfortunately, even on our side we have been affected,” said Mr Al Balooshi, adding that fisherman said the oil destroyed their equipment. “Their lines, their tackles had all been damaged, they had to throw out whatever they used during that time because it is no good to use anymore. And they were very, very angry about it because they came a long way from Abu Dhabi or from far away to enjoy their fishing day and they come out to this oil spill.”

Beyond the economic impact, Ms Colella said she was more concerned about how the oil pollution would affect the environment and marine life.

Last year, the area experienced four oil spills between March and May leading to beach closures and clean-ups.

“There should be more regulations in terms of ships going in and out of this area,” said Ms Colella.

Experts suggested that the pollution likely originates from international tankers illegally washing their fuel storage area or dumping dirty ballast water and slop tanks as they cross the Strait of Hormuz.

Federal Law No (24) of 1999 for the protection and development of the environment prohibits “all marine means of transportation” from discharging or disposing of oil or oil mixture into the “marine environment.” Anyone found guilty of violating the law will be responsible for the cleanup costs and be punished by imprisonment and a fine not less than Dh150,000. But the challenge is catching the violators, said Capt. Tamer Masoud, harbour master of Fujairah Seaport.

“The violators are unknown sources from the open sea,” said Capt. Masoud. “What you can do when they are unknown sources? How can you catch who did it?”

Mr Al Balooshi said more needs to be done to ensure violators are caught and punished.

“We need to monitor this whole area, the whole region, by satellites or by patrolling or in any way to control this because this affects not only the tourists, this affects the sea environment,” said Mr Al Balooshi.

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