posted on 12/06/2012: 717 views
Umm Al Qaiwain - The White Whale, an oil tanker that ran aground in late October, poses a serious risk to coastal marine life in the UAE if it cannot be salvaged or the 1,000 tonnes of diesel stored in its holds safely drained, an official has warned.
Lying on the seabed 35 kilometres off the coast in Umm Al Qaiwain, the vessel continues to leak fuel, according to reports, despite efforts to patch holes in the hull late last year.
"It will be catastrophic if any of the diesel tanks burst as it would likely pollute the shoreline and cause contamination and endanger marine life,” an official with Khalid Port told Gulf News.
The latest attempt to salvage the sunken tanker is now under way with specialist crews at the wreck site since Wednesday, said Sultan Alwan, the assistant undersecretary for external audit at the Ministry of Environment and Water.
A number of previous attempts to salvage the wreck ended in failure but Alwan said he was confident the latest effort would be successful.
The ship went down off the coast on October 22 and is currently lying at a depth of 35 metres.
A number of documented reports by fishermen in recent days of a film of oil on Gulf waters have raised environmental concerns again in the area around the sunken vessel.
A fisherman told Gulf News that the oil slick appeared to be growing larger by the day leading to an advisory by the Ministry of Environment urging commercial fishing vessels to avoid the area.
The ministry is now working with a company called Dubai Ship Building and Engineering to recover the sunken ship. "Dubai Ship Building, the company contracted by the ministry to do the salvaging work, is an experienced company committed to removing the ship without any leakages that would cause pollution and damage marine life,” Alwan said. "The reason for the earlier delays were just based on the unstable bad weather that brought high waves.”
Salvage plans called for a ship to be dispatched to the area where, accompanied by smaller vessels, the White Whale could be raised to the surface and towed back to harbour, said an official at the company who declined to be identified.
"Every time we set a date for the operation, unfortunately the weather changes the entire plan,” said an official yesterday.
Word that fuel oil was once again leaking to the surface was disheartening for authorities who quickly initiated steps to patch up the holes in White Whale's hull.
Alwan, meanwhile, confirmed that expert divers had been at work to stop diesel leaking from the engines as part of a three-phase retrieval plan. – Gulf News
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