Commercial ships dump waste into sea, say maritime officials

Marine life, such as sharks, bear the brunt of the 'environmental crises' caused by pollution dumped by ships, with desalination plants also at risk

Tonnes of plastic waste dredged from Dubai Creek by municipal crews last year. Dubai Municipality
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Commercial ships are polluting the waters off the coast of the UAE by dumping waste into the sea, maritime officials said.

In one incident in November last year, dozens of containers were dropped into the water and it took the authorities three months to clean up. A Dubai police official said it was an accident but they considered it an environmental crisis, with pollution causing problems for marine life such as fish, turtles and sharks.

Brig Omar Al Shamsi, deputy director of the general department of operations at Dubai Police, said: “A total of 56 empty containers fell into the sea near water desalination plants in Jebal Ali.

“Although the emirate is connected to some other desalination plants, the incident could have affected the flow of sewer water into the city. The maritime force spent three months collecting the containers.

Brig Al Shamsi said each container was about 12 metres in length and the incident affected the marine environment.

Last weekend, Dubai Municipality recovered 16.3 tonnes of goods and waste from a commercial ship that sank in Dubai Creek. A representative of Dubai Municipality, said the ship collided with one of the breakwaters and sank.

“Considering the sensitivity of the site and to stop the spread of goods in the water, a special team ... was called in,” they said. “The site was surrounded with a sea barrier, preventing the spread of floating waste in the Creek waters due to sea currents.

“The team recovered goods fallen from the ship, mostly electrical appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners, which are dangerous to the marine environment.”


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Habiba Al Marashi, chairperson of the Emirates Environment Group, urged Gulf countries to increase environmental protection in their waters.

“All units concerned with marine security must collaborate and protect our waters from pollution. Heftier fines must be imposed on those who dump waste into the sea,” Ms Al Marashi said. “Although many campaigns about preserving the environment have been launched, some people refuse to listen and dump waste into the water,” she said.

Ms Al Marashi called on the public touse social media to  raise awareness about the effect of pollution on coastal and marine life, who bear the brunt of illegal waste disposal.

“Dumping waste on a daily basis has a significant negative impact on the environment and on human beings, too.”

Lt Col Ali Abduallah Al Naqbi, head of maritime rescue at Dubai Police, said his unit along and volunteers collect tonnes of rubbish thrown into the sea and creeks.

“The force organises initiatives to clean up the ports and seas in the emirate. Tonnes of rubbish, such as tyres, plastic junk and soft drinks waste are among the items collected,” Lt Col Al Naqbi said.

He said quantities of rubbish and plastic discarded in the sea have a direct effect on the water quality.

Dumping waste off the coast of the UAE is not the only challenge the maritime police unit faces. Others include the disregard of maritime safety measures, misleading emergency reports and smuggling prohibited substances on board ships.

Last year there were 105 inaccurate emergency reports made to the maritime force, an increase from 35 recorded the year before, Dubai police said.

More than 100 maritime accidents were recorded in Dubai last year, mostly the result of  ignorance or disregard of maritime safety procedures and laws.