Engineers pictured earlier this year working on the salvation of the sunken White Whale ship in Umm Al Quwain.
Engineers pictured earlier this year working on the salvation of the sunken White Whale ship in Umm Al Quwain.

UAQ seeks Dh20m compensation for sinking of White Whale

UMM AL QUWAIN // The Ministry of the Environment is seeking Dh20 million in compensation from the owner of a ship that sank off the coast of the emirate last year.

The White Whale was carrying several hundred tonnes of diesel when it sank on October 22.

Its nine crew members, including the captain, escaped on a life boat, eventually reaching land 16 kilometres away.

A lawyer for the ministry submitted the request to the Umm Al Quwain Federal Court of First Instance yesterday.

The owner, identified as AFA, an Arab, appeared alongside the White Whale's captain, the Somali FAA, without a lawyer and presented their defence papers to the judge.

An arrest warrant was issued for the owner when he failed to appear at an earlier hearing. He said he had been sick and was unable to attend.

The Dh20m compensation claim was broken down into Dh2m spent to control the environmental pollution from the ship and underwater surveillance; salvaging the ship cost Dh2.15m; while damage caused by oil leaks, impeding marine traffic, the death of fish stocks and disruption of fishing was put at Dh15.85m.

UAQ public prosecutors filed five charges against the owner and captain - exposing the lives of others to risk, not taking adequate measures to prevent and reduce the effects of pollution, entering territorial waters of the state without correct documentation and records of the amount of diesel being carried, carrying diesel into the country when the ship was not equipped to prevent pollution, and carrying diesel when the ship did not have a certificate of pollution prevention.

The ministry said the White Whale's owner was immediately notified to remove the ship, which was operating under a Comoras Island flag, after it sank to avoid damage to the environment and allow marine traffic in the area to resume but a series of measures were not taken.

The White Whale was lying about 30 metres below the surface, 11 nautical miles off the coast of UAQ, about 30 minutes by boat, when it was finally raised in June.

The case was adjourned for three weeks.