View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oil Tanker Collides and Catches Fire off Dubai

Emergency workers have extinguished the fire caused by a collision between an oil tanker and a container vessel off the Dubai coast.

The oil tanker, called the Kashmir, was carrying some 30,000 tons of oil condensates, worth about $9 million, from Iran to the UAE when it collided with the container vessel, called Sima Buoy, which had just left the port of Jebel Ali.

The crewmembers on board both vessels were safely evacuated, said a spokeswoman for Dubai's port operator DP World.

“The (Jebel Ali) channel is now clear and traffic in the channel is back to normal,” she said.

Authorities did not mention the cause of the incident but a witness said that the oil tanker appeared to be badly damaged. It is unclear if there has been any oil spill.

This news does not augur well for the oil business in the UAE and the environmental catastrophes that have plagued the UAE shoreline. Last year (2008) there were more than 15 oil spillages that appear to have been illegal oil dumpings by rogue tanker captains off the UAE’s east coast. This has caused considerable damage to the Fujairah marine environment, to the diving industry and the hotels and resorts along the coast.

At any time, 10-15 miles out from Fujairah, there are 200 oil tankers and other vessels waiting to be unloaded and loaded. There are great possibilities for collisions in these congested waters and the likelihood has been accentuated with the recent measures for stockpiling oil.

The National reported (7 February 2009), that a supertanker has been booked for six months to store about 2 billion barrels of crude off the east coast of the Emirates.
This move to stockpile oil at sea near Fujairah, the world’s second biggest bunkering hub, is part of a worldwide trend towards offshore storage that has developed because onshore oil depots are full, and most oil traders expect prices to rise in coming months.

With the growing congestion of the UAE waterways and the emergence of oil storage vessels anchored off the east coast, it will be imperative that the UAE authorities ensure that collisions are limited and the resulting spillage that could devastate the shorelines and marine life.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Kashmir which was reportedly a Malta-registered vessel owned, managed by Italy's Martinoli Consulting Srl, and operated by Greece's Petroships.

Check out Reuters Slideshow of this event.