ilat - Ronit Zilberstein - June 27 2011
Pollution in the Gulf of Eilat following the oil spill. Photo by Ronit Zilberstein
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Though a weekend oil spill in Eilat port apparently did not damage the coral reefs, it did provide a warning of the potential risks posed by the movement of ships carrying large quantities of fuel in the narrow gulf.

The leak, from a docked Turkish ship, started on Friday and was not brought under control until yesterday, according to Rani Amir, head of the Marine and Coastal Environment Division in the Environmental Protection Ministry.

"We pumped some nine tons of fuel [out of the sea] and succeeded in minimizing the damage because of the quick response," Amir said yesterday.

Now the ministry is investigating the cause of the leak. "We will not release the ship until we get the guarantee paid, which includes the fine they owe and [covering] the expense of the clean-up," Amir said.

Though the incident turned out to be minor, it demonstrated yet again that Israel has only limited manpower to deal with events like this.

Over the past few days there were also fuel leaks in the ports of Haifa and Ashdod, and the ministry would not have been able to deal with the leak in Eilat without help from volunteers.

Aside from providing more money and manpower, Amir believes the state should sign an agreement with an international contractor that would help deal with a more serious spill.

"Several neighboring states, such as Cyprus and Egypt, have already done so," he said.