Satellite images show concentration of oil slick near Fujairah

Satellite images show concentration of oil slick near Fujairah

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Al Ain: Ballast water discharged by giant oil tankers is creating oil slicks in the Arabian Gulf waters especially near Fujairah, a UAE University study disclosed. It stressed the importance of identifying the offshore areas that are prone to developing oil slicks, in order to effectively monitor them. It has also developed an atlas comprising of high quality satellite images.

Dr Salem Eisa from the Department of Geology at the College of Sciences at the UAE University (UAEU) believes the atlas could also lead to the setting up of an early warning system in the Gulf region, as well as creating awareness on the issue.

Empty oil tankers pump in water before taking on their load. When ships load the cargo, the water is pumped out.

“The offshore waters of the UAE face frequent oil slicks. Considerable concentrations have been found in offshore Fujairah,” said the geologist. The study is part of the collaboration project, called Satellite Image Processing Project between Japan Oil Development Company and UAEU.

He said in the last few decades some 25 per cent of the world’s oil production has passed through the Strait of Hormuz.

“This heavy use of the Gulf waters by oil tankers presents a real danger to its fragile environment,” he said, adding ballast water and other oily water discharged into the Arabian Gulf is over 750,000 tonnes.

The study, he said, focused on the area that is the busiest and most important in the world since one ship passes the Strait every six minutes approximately. About 15.5 million barrels of oil per day is transported through the Strait of Hormuz.

Examination of some 300 satellite images during the study showed that certain coastal areas of the UAE face frequent oil spills.

Shipping routes bordering the UAE with relatively frequent incidences of oil spills include the offshore area running parallel to the coast of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, he said.

“Future work is needed to continue addressing this crucial problem for the Gulf States, however any future work to improve monitoring and detection of oil spills in the Arabian Gulf should be collective, coordinated and based on new approaches such as integrated environmental databases and GIS,” said Dr Eisa.