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After twin oil spills off its beaches, Sharjah warns vessels

In most of the oil spill cases, the pollution is caused by vessels discharging residue from their tanks before going into the port.

Authorities in Sharjah have warned of strict action against vessels violating environment regulations and causing oil spills.

Two recent oil spills off Khor Fakkan and Kalba beaches have impacted the marine ecosystem and affected the livelihood of fishermen. They have also led to swimming ban on Kalba beach, which was covered with black sludge.

Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, chairperson of the Environment And Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), said: “The EPAA, in collaboration with the police, municipal bodies, the coast guard and Bee’ah, has managed to contain the oil spill on the two beaches in Sharjah successfully. These spills could have spelt more disaster on the environment and marine life.”

In most of the oil spill cases, the pollution is caused by vessels discharging residue from their tanks before going into the port.

Al Suwaidi added that the ships causing the environmental violations have been strictly dealt with. “Awareness of ship crews is being raised. Immediate measures are being taken and the public has been asked not to venture into the sea. We are making huge efforts to restore the ecosystem of the area and prevent the pollution from spreading,” she added.

An official at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment said that preventing oil spills are crucial since these incidents are occurring at an alarming frequency. “This year alone, three oil spills have happened in the country and caused far-reaching impact. We need a strong mechanism to implement the law,” he pointed out.

Members of the Sharjah Consultative Council (SCC) and representatives of the Federal National Council (FNC) have also raised their concerns over the spurt in oil spills. They have called on upgrading smart technology that can monitor marine life and carry out surveillance of ships loaded with tanks.

Fishermen bear the brunt

The fishing community expressed its concerns over the pollution caused by the ships. “The oil spill mostly spreads to more than five kilometers of coastline and causes shoals of fish to wash ashore.”

The fishermen in Khor Fakkan, Kalba and Al Qurm areas said that the closure of the beaches have hit their business as their work has come to a halt for several days causing a hike in the price of fishes due to their scarcity.

What does the law say

According to Federal Law 24 of 1999, 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. A fine of not less than Dh150,000 and not exceeding Dh1 million will be slapped on the violator.

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

afkarali@khaleejtimes.com

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