Third oil spill in Fujairah in two months leaves hoteliers fuming

Aside from the obvious environmental impact caused by tankers deliberately dumping their crude-laden ballast water into the sea, hotel managers are saying it is affecting tourism and they are losing out on thousands of dirhams.

A hotel guest is covered with oil after a spill washed ashore near Fujairah’s Snoopy island.
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FUJAIRAH // Hoteliers on the coast of Fujairah fear for the future of their businesses after a third oil spill in recent weeks.

They say tankers deliberately dumping their oily ballast water into the sea is affecting tourism and they are losing out on thousands of dirhams – not to mention the environmental effects.

Hotel bookings and diving tours were cancelled over the weekend in most of the hotels in Al Aqah because of the spill, which follows one last month in Kalba, on Sharjah’s east coast, and another in Al Aqah in March.

“Our estimated loss during the weekend could reach Dh80,000 as many guests cancelled their booking after hearing the news about the oil spill,” said Joseph Abou Dib, manager of Sandy Beach Hotel and Resort in Al Aqah.

“People were covered in black oil and we immediately closed the beach when it first appeared about 2pm on Thursday.”

The 2 kilometre-long spill forced beaches to be closed in all the hotels and dead fish lay on the shores.

“Hotel occupancy went down to 60 per cent and we are badly affected. It’s the second time this year and we don’t want this to affect tourism in the area,” Mr Abou Dib said.

Hotel staff and municipality workers started to clean the shores on Thursday afternoon and continued until Friday morning.

“Half of the beach was cleared on Friday by about 10am and guests were swimming cautiously,” Mr Abou Dib said.

The general manager of the Miramar hotel said the oil brought with it a foul odour.

“A very bad smell reached all the way to the lobby,” Ashraf Helmy said. “The beach was closed on Thursday and swimming was allowed with caution on Friday and Saturday.

“We had about 780 guests and they were all in the pool area and most of them were unhappy with the situation. We tried to offer discounts and complimentary meals but many had cancelled their stay.

“There should be more observation and penalties on the vessels that commit such acts. We have unique diving spots and it’s considered one of the best getaways for many.”

Experts had said that it could prove almost impossible to trace the source of the spills because of the volume of sea traffic and complex tides.

Many water activities were halted, leaving divers disappointed.

“Getting the customers in and out of the boat from the beach was difficult as the oil was covering the area,” said Michela Colella, operations manager of Divers Down Centre in Al Aqah.

“The water was clear under the surface but when you go out of water you will be covered in oil and that damaged our diving suit.

“Five people cancelled their appointments and we did our best to keep the rest but it wasn’t easy. We hope that the marine life won’t be affected by this.”

Dr Saif Al Ghais, a marine scientist and executive director of Ras Al Khaimah Environment Protection and Development Authority, said during an earlier spill that dumping such substances was illegal.

“It should be monitored and investigated,” Dr Al Ghais said. “The effect may vary depending on the oil classification. Light crude oil causes less damage than heavy crude oil, which creates tar, but both can affect surface marine species and birds.

“If the oil reaches the beach, it may also cause harm to the microscopic creatures and other species that live on the sand near the water, such as small worms and seashells.”