'An Oil Spill Almost Every Day'
After a 2008 oil spill slicked their beachfront and drove away business, hotel owners and tourism officials in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, tried to ask the tough question "Who is responsible?" What they found was a slow government response that blamed an anonymous ship among the hundreds of oil tankers that make a daily visit to Fujairah and other ports on the east coast of the country. The level of sea traffic in this region has led to oil spills almost every week, most of which are minor and are cleaned up within days. Nevertheless, the frequency of the spills has led some in Fujairah to speculate that the culprit may not be the accidental spillage of oil, but rather the deliberate flushing of old oil into the sea.
As Gulf News reported in the case of a February 2008 oil spill in Fujairah, government authorities blamed the oil on a tanker that released old oil and solvents from its tank as it prepared to refuel. Tankers in a hurry or unwilling to pay the fees for a formal cleaning process are reported to clean the old oil residue from their tanks with solvents then dump the remains into the water. It is this mixture that most often washes up onto UAE's east coast.
In a report in UAE's National newspaper on the February 2008 spill, diving instructor Shawkat Chawdury said that "[an oil spill] happens almost every day." The same report cited an estimate that in five years the UAE typically witnesses 80 oil spills in its waters, with 6 major spills per year.
As 2009 dawns, SEACOR Environmental Services- a firm often contracted to clean up the UAE spills- issued a report saying that Fujairah itself suffers from oil dumping almost once a month. They cited the lack of dumping facilities as a key reason that tankers chose to funnel oil into the water, though previous reports had also indicated the low fines and lax enforcement of the regional and national government as a factor.
-Equatorial Press Staff Report. Photo Courtesy of David Simpson.