UMM AL QUWAIN - After months of delay, another attempt has been launched to retrieve the diesel-laden White Whale which sank off the Umm Al Quwain coast in October last year. The operation is expected to be completed within four to five days.
Authorities are making another attempt to retrieve the vessel lying 30 metres below the sea surface, 11 nautical miles or 16 kilometres off the coast of UAQ - about 30-minute ride on a boat. Though the ship is still loaded with over 1,000 tonnes of diesel since it sank on October 22, 2011, the divers were able to stop oil leakage and contain the pollution.
Sultan Alwan, Assistant Undersecretary for External Audit at the Ministry of Environment and Water, on Tuesday said a number of attempts were made in the past but the bad and unstable weather made it hard for the salvation to be completed. "The Dubai Ship Building, the company contracted by the ministry to do the salvation work, is an experienced firm committed to removing the ship without any leakage that may cause pollution and damage marine life. "The salvation work has already started and it will take about four to five consecutive days to recover the sunken vessel," he said.
As per some media reports, the reason for the delay is the refusal to pay the Dh400,000 recovery cost to the company by the owner of the Iranian ship.
Denying the reports, Dr Mariam Al Shenasi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Water, told Khaleej Times, as per the Federal Law No (24) on the environment protection and development, the owner of a ship, which causes any environmental pollution or risks, shall bear all expenses of recovery of the ship.
"The owner of the vessel has to pay the recovery cost even if it is or very high. The law is very stringent in this regard for the safety and protection of the environment," she said.
Dr Al Shenasi said the diesel spill has almost stopped. "We are surveying the sea in the morning and evening. The vessel, lying 30 metres below the suface, makes the job harder for the divers."
Late last year, the ministry earmarked Dh500,000 for purchasing a special boat for marine researches and studies in Umm Al Quwain. "The 34-square-foot boat, which is equipped with sophisticated scientific tools, is suitable for work under harsh sea conditions, and shall be a great help in disasters and emergency cases," she said. "It shall also be very effective in surveying, taking samples and monitoring pollutants related to marine environment, apart from meeting security and safety needs."
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(Originally published May 15, 2012, in Khaleej Times.)