Malaysian ship to be fined for spilling palm oil in Aqaba Gulf
A Malaysian ship loaded with palm oil on Friday leaked a “small” amount of the organic liquid into the Gulf of Aqaba and was “immediately” combated by the environmental authorities there, an official said on Monday.
“A ship that was downloading vegetable and organic oil leaked around 150kg to the sea,” said Bilal Bashir, head of the environment department at the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA).
Bashir said that the oil spill is “not chemical and does not harm” the environment. He said “nature is able of degrading the substances” — which were cleared away.
According to officials from the Prince Hamzah Centre to Combat Oil Spills (PHCCOS) in Aqaba, the oil spill contaminated around 250 miles of the southern shores of Aqaba after sea currents carried the slick to the beach.
Less than “half a tonne” was spilled into the sea, he said, without giving any further information.
“The ship was around 100 miles away from the beach and northern wind resulted in affecting the shore,” said head of PHCCOS Samir Mustafa.
The official said that the beach of the Prince Rashed Marine Club (south of Aqaba) was cleaned by the centre's workers using manual tools in a total of 13 operational hours.
The operations started on Friday noon and ended at 10:00am on Saturday, and were interrupted at night whereas environmental guards “watched over the beach.”
The official said the substance was properly disposed of.
“The ship [called Bunga Melatis 5] was downloading its load through pipes... which leaked liquid on the main deck that streamed down the drainage to the sea,” Mustafa told the Jordan Times. “Palm oil is not a strong pollutant and is not severely harmful to the beach.”
ASEZA's environment department cooperated with the marine inspection department of the Aqaba Ports Corporation to take necessary measures to carry out “control” activities, the first phase in facing oil spill problems.
“First, the ship was notified by ASEZA to block the drainage,” Mustafa said.
Following this, ASEZA contacted PHCCOS to carry out phase two whereby the centre used some of its JD4.50 million worth of equipment to launch a sweeping cleaning activity.
“Of course, there is a penalty for oil spill [accidents],” Mustafa said.
The usual legal procedures entail an assessment of the damage by ASEZA's environmentalists followed by calculating the costs of cleaning activities, he said.
Accordingly, ASEZA would levy a fine on the ship and in case the ship refuses to pay, it would be referred to court.
The 1995 environment law of the General Corporation for Environment Protection (GCEP) states that compensation for the cleaning process only is estimated around JD8,000.
However, determining fines for the environmental damage caused by the spill varies according to the kind of substances (light or heavy), type of affected beach (sandy or rocky) and type of affected surface (sea or beach or both).
“The closer the spill is to the beach, the greater the damage is because coral reefs and some [fragile] marine life exist there,” Mustafa said.
GCEP's regulations specify fines for each case, but most importantly the highest ceiling for fines on ecological damages will be set in the near future by ASEZA for around JD10 million, Mustafa stated.
In another incident, an official, who declined to be named, said that an oil spill took place in the Royal Yacht Club four days ago.
“The spill was cleaned by the PHCCOS and was contained,” he said, adding that one of the boats seemed to have leaked engine oil into the sea.
According to Al Rai daily newspaper, the ASEZA commission is currently preparing special environmental regulations to control industrial pollution and to set envirnmental guidlines in the ASEZ. The regulations are expected to be ready by Jan. 31.
By Ruba Saqr
( Jordan Times )
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)