FUJAIRAH // An oil tanker that was illegally washing its fuel storage area and dumping the outflow was the reason for the oil spill that affected two kilometres of coastline on Monday, causing untold environmental damage, experts said.
Tanker crews are known to surreptitiously clear out their fuel areas at night in international waters to avoid charges in port, a shipping industry source said, while an environmentalist said the spill came at the worst possible time.
“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.
Dr Al Ghais also said that oil could prevent birds from flying if got on their feathers and that it also affected the food they eat.
“Dumping such substances into the water is illegal and should be monitored and investigated,” he said. “If they manage to take a sample from the oil they could analyse it and trace it back to the country of origin and find out which tanker did it.
“Luckily, the water keeps moving and renewing and, therefore, the effect won’t last long and won’t affect humans. Once it’s cleaned, the harm is gone.”
A shipping industry source said that some tankers head out to sea to wash their fuel tanks in an attempt to evade detection.
“Monitoring the tankers within 12 nautical miles is the responsibility of the coastguards and the port, but due to the lack of a satellite system to monitor at night, they can’t control it all the time,” he said.
Ships wash their fuel compartments if they intend to change the type of oil they are transporting.
“Penalties are available and rules are clear and strict, but adding a law that obligates ships to provide a certificate from other ports if they arrive without having any oily liquid sediment in their fuel area, implying that it has been cleaned should be fundamental.”
“The ministry, along with special authorities, are working side by side in monitoring any pollution caused by oil spills in UAE waters.”
The manager of Dibba Municipality confirmed the cause of the oil spill and said that Al Aqah beach was cleaned up in less than 24 hours.