Monday 5 August 2013

Oil dumping causes 16 km slick in the Arabian Gulf.

A ship has been observed dumping oil in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, according to the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre, an intergovernmental agency representing eight nations on the Gulf, which is credited with having achieved a 90% drop in oil-related pollution in the region since 1999. The Indian registered Desh Shanti, a 158 000 tonne double-hulled oil tanker, was observed dumping oil in Iranian Waters, and persisted despite warnings from authorities, resulting in a 16 km slick which threatens the coasts of Iran and neighbouring states, who are monitoring events closely. 

The Indian registered Desh Shanti, accused of dumping oil in the Arabian Gulf. Shipspotting.

The Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre has recommended that any nation affected by the spill take legal action against the vessels owners, The Shipping Corporation of India. Since the dumping took place in Iranian waters Iran could potentially impose fines of up to US$1 million on the vessel, but other nations potentially affected could also seek legal redress. The vessel has also been reported to the International Maritime Organization, which keeps a black list of vessels involved in illegal activities, and raised with the Indian Government.

The exact reason why the Desh Shanti was dumping oil is unclear, but this activity is usually associated with cleaning out the ship's bilge tanks, areas at the bottom of ships hulls where waste liquids accumulate, including waste oil from engines and any oil that has leaked from tanks internally. Legally this must be carried to a port, adding to a ships fuel bill, then washed out by properly trained contractors and any waste material properly disposed of, again costing money. Dumping oil from the bilge tanks into the sea is clearly a much cheaper option, but was banned by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil in 1954, leading to a steady reduction in the practice around the globe as local authorities developed ways to enforce the ban.

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