People affected by Aqaba oil spill should file for compensation — ASEZA

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AMMAN — Cleanups were completed on an oil spill that damaged several berths at the container and passenger terminals, and spread to some beaches in the southernmost tip of Aqaba, said Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) Commissioner for Tourism and Environment Nidal Al-Majali.اضافة اعلان

Majali told Jordan News that the cleanups were carried out by an international firm hired to dispense of the oil slick in the area, which included some beaches within the boundaries of the Aqaba Marine Reserve.

He said that ASEZA referred the case of the oil spill to Aqaba’s public prosecutor, and advised people and firms affected by the spill to “resort to the judiciary to register their case to be compensated for the damage incurred, if it was proven.”

“Some divers were affected by the oil spill, but the diving process in general was not,” he said.

He said that 5.11 tonnes of heavy fuel used in engines leaked as a result of a hole in the fuel tank on August 14.

In the past two weeks, cleaning teams were battling with the oil spill from the vessel “Floor of Sea” at the Container Terminal, which spread to the shore, swept by changing winds.

At the time, Majali said that fighting the oil slick required specialized personnel and equipment.

After the oil leak, the majority of boat trips and dive bookings were canceled, and hundreds of items of scuba diving equipment of all kinds were destroyed by those practicing diving during that period and after, according to the head of Aqaba Diving Association, Khamash Yassin.

The association circulated to its centers not to use the diving equipment for fear of sudden disruption during diving, and for the safety of the visitor and tourist and prevention of any injuries.

Marine Science Station Director Ali Al-Sawalmeh asserted that readings taken from 11 seawater spots in the first two days of the spill showed that coral in the Gulf of Aqaba was safe and that the slick had not affected the marine environment.

Majali explained in the interview with Jordan News that the competent authorities dealt with the accident right after it was reported, through a rapid response plan from The Environmental Damage Assessment Team in the Aqaba Region Authority.

He said the response was in partnership with the Maritime Authority and the Marine Reserve crew. They sought to prevent the expansion of the leakage area that spread, as a result of wind and waves, and reached the shoreline.

He said the oil slick, which had spread across an area of 50 dunums, under the berth of the container port, at a height of 60 cm, was completely removed on August 28.

He attributed the two-week period to clear the spill partly on the keenness to “refrain from using chemicals that would harm marine life, and the delay of the ship’s crew in reporting the incident.”

Environmental expert Duraid Mahasneh said there was ambiguity in dealing with the crisis and finding solutions to it. Foreign experts were hired to deal with the fuel leak, and it “took a long time to do the job, which is costly,” he said.

He said pollution spread to several areas in the port, including the container port. “Every ship which enters the area is affected by this substance on its walls”, he noted.

“We are concerned that the components of this substance will remain in the water, especially since the waves of the Aqaba Sea are not strong, as the Aqaba Gulf is a closed area,” he said.

“This indicates that the substance will remain in the Gulf of Aqaba,” he said. “But at the same time, there is a positive element here, which is if the waves were strong, the oil would have spilled over the international waters into neighboring areas and may have resulted in political crises.”

He pointed out that marine life requires continuous monitoring to ascertain the effect of the substance and to what extent including consideration for fish and coral reefs.

Yassin, head of Aqaba Diving Association, praised the authorities for combating pollution, stressing that the diving sites are now safe and available for reservation, and that many trips which had been canceled are back.

He said he communicated with ASEZA on the damages inflicted on some diving equipment, smeared by the oily substance. “We’re concerned that the equipment may not work under water anymore,” he said.

Ali Al-Sawalmeh, Director of the Marine Sciences Station, said that samples taken from some areas showed that there “is no trace at the present time of the leaked oil in the water column, and that it is limited to the surface.” He pointed to the possibility of the emergence of minor traces later.

He asserted that laboratory analyses on coral reefs, which were conducted by specialists at the Marine Science Station, showed that marine life was able to adapt in the first days of the accident, which means it could adapt later, too.

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