East coast oil slicks impact on UAE tourism

HOTEL bosses have slammed UAE port authorities for allowing a recent spate of oil slicks to affect their trade. The spills have washed up on beaches along the east coast of the UAE, damaging the tourism industry, particularly in the emirate of Fujairah.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  June 26, 2005

HOTEL bosses have slammed UAE port authorities for allowing a recent spate of oil slicks to affect their trade. The spills have washed up on beaches along the east coast of the UAE, damaging the tourism industry, particularly in the emirate of Fujairah. There have been up to ten oil spills along the east coast already this year. The most serious happened last month when a tanker and a commercial vessel collided 75 kilometeres from Fujairah causing a 700 tonne oil spill in surrounding waters. However, most of the spills come from the routine cleaning of oil tankers. “The oil slicks are probably due to the washing of tankers,” captain Mousa Mourad, general director, Fujairah Port told Arabian Business. “In the GCC region each tanker has to have a proper certificate in evacuating or cleaning its containers from pollutants from the official stations. There are a number of local and international companies that have mobile stations that work on emptying or cleaning the tankers from oil pollutants,” he added. The most recent oil slick washed up on Fujairah’s Al Aqah coastline last week and was cleaned up by Fujairah Municipality. Buoys were placed in the affected areas to control the spread of the spill and the authorities used sophisticated equipment to pump it out. However, the constant clean-up operations taking place are not enough for disgruntled hotel chiefs in the affected areas, who want to see more action. “The authorities need to do something about it. The oil spills haven’t had an overly dramatic effect on us, but it has certainly had a negative impact on our business,” Patrick Antaki, general manager, Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Hotel in Fujairah told Arabian Business. “People are still coming to stay here, but when they see the beach covered in oil they are clearly annoyed and rightly so,” he added. In 1978 the GCC countries signed the MARPOL 73/78, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. This is the main international pact covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by vessels from operational or accidental causes. Nevertheless, the slicks continue to happen and could affect the whole of the UAE’s tourism industry. “These oil spills on the beaches could affect a customer’s decision as to whether they want to come back to our hotel or not,” explained Antaki. “Why should people not go and stay in the Maldives or the Seychelles instead where the beaches are fine all year round?” The Federal Environmental Agency (FEA) and the public health section of Dibba Al Fujairah Municipality claim the area from Badiya to Rol Dhidana is now free from any oil pollution. Oil tankers have been banned from anchoring in the area extending from Badiya to Dibba Al Fujairah since 1993, but spills varying in seriousness continue to plague hotels in the area. “It is a major problem, but it isn’t in the municipality’s capacity to have chemicals and machines to clean up the ocean, it is up to the federal government to protect these zones,” sadi Joseph Aboudip, general manager, Sandy Beach Hotel and Resort, Fujairah.

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