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Gulf waters 'vulnerable to oil spill catastrophe'

Manama, November 24, 2010

Extremly shallow waters in the Gulf make it one of the worst places in the world to have an oil spill, an expert has warned.

What might be considered a minor spill elsewhere could have catastrophic consequences if it happened in this region, said Bahrain-based Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre (Memac) director Captain Abdul Monem Al Janahi.

Yesterday's mock oil spill response exercise focused on what would happen if 150 tonnes of bunker fuel oil leaked into regional waters.

Capt Al Janahi warned that if that happened in real life, the damage could take up to 50 years to repair.

'Bahrain's and the region's waters are shallow and not as deep as the US or Europe, where such a spill could have less serious consequences,' he said.

'The current in these (Gulf) waters is slow and since the waters are shallow, oil will settle down fast. That could be really dangerous.'

However, he added that the shallow waters meant that any leak could be more easily plugged - saying the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would have been much easier to handle here.

'This kind of a spill has to be controlled and taken care of within 48 hours to minimise the impact,' he said.

'That is what we are testing here.'

Although there are no offshore oilrigs in Bahrain, there are 120 in the region.

'This is why we have to be alert at all times because a spill anywhere could affect the entire area,' he added.

Meanwhile, Memac consultant and KBL Shipping Germany managing director Hans Knopp said such a spill could affect the entire country in next to no time.

'The desalination plants, the fishing industry, petrochemicals and the other industry could all grind to a halt in the event of such a disaster happening,' he said.

'The cost would be mind-boggling and run into tens of millions of dollars.'

He said Bahrain's limited freshwater resources meant it was imperative to protect whatever it had.

'The desalination plants are the country's lifeline and could be the first to be affected,' he added.

'The flora and fauna and the fragile ecology are very vulnerable and would also be affected.'-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Middle East | Gulf | Environment | pollution | oil spill | sea water |

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