Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said they have identified the crude oil tanker that was responsible for the oil spill off the coast of the country last month. It was the Libyan tanker Emerald, carrying cargo from Iran to Syria.
Following an intensive two-week investigation led by the Marine Environment Protection Unit and with the assistance of partners from Israel and international bodies, the Ministry established that the Panamanian-flagged tanker, illegally carrying 112,000 tons of crude oil from Iran to Syria, polluted dozens of kilometers of the Israeli coastline between February 1st and 2nd, in Israel’s economic waters. The Emerald is old (about 19 years old), so it cannot be received at European or US ports.
We will reckon with the environmental criminal who polluted the coasts of our country, and we will demand compensation on behalf of all Israeli citizens, for this damage to our health, nature, marine animals, and the landscape,
…the Environmental Protection Minister, Gila Gamliel, said.
According to the Ministry, European satellites found retrospective documentation of an oil stain on February 5th, dozens of kilometers off the coast of Israel, which could be associated with the tanker in question.
This may be an early incarnation of the oil stain that was discovered on Feb. 11th, some 50 km off Israel’s coast. Experts say modeling shows that the tar that landed on Israel’s beaches came from the location of that stain.
Laboratory tests of the samples taken by the MoEP immediately after the incident, as well as in the following days, revealed that it was crude oil. Thus the list of potential suspects was reduced from about 35 ships to four tankers: Two were ultimately excluded due to their location in the days before the incident. Another tanker was inspected in Spain (by a local team) and in Greece (by the Israeli investigation team) and was ruled out as a source of contamination. The fourth tanker, now in Iran, is the Emerald, and has been named responsible for the incident.
Analyses of satellite images and models run by researchers from the MoEP, IOLR, and Windward show that the ship smuggled crude oil from Iran into Syria. The tanker had its AIS turned off when it left the Iranian region. Before reaching the Suez Canal, the tanker’s equipment was turned on, and it crossed the canal in Egyptian territory. Then, it went dark again before entering Israel’s economic waters.
Between February 1st and 2nd, the ship polluted Israel’s economic waters while in motion and with its equipment turned off. When it reached Syrian territory, it once again turned on its devices. Between February 3rd and 14th, the tanker unloaded all the crude oil it was carrying onto other vessels.
During this period of time, satellites discovered two more stains between Cyprus and Syria, in the area the ship had sailed. The vessel returned to Iran again, again in the “dark” when it entered Israel’s economic waters; it stayed that way until it reached a port in Iran, where it is currently anchored.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection, together with the Shipping and Ports Authority, will contact the Emerald’s insurers, and will do whatever necessary to ensure that the State of Israel receives compensation from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds.
Together, we will bring to justice those responsible for the environmental terrorism, those who committed this crime against humanity. We will continue to rehabilitate the damaged beaches and the animals that were harmed. Together, we will win, and we’ll remove the pollution from our country’s shores,
…the Minister added.