Global Organization to Compensate Israel for Its Worst Oil Disaster

Zafrir Rinat
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A worker at the Israeli Sea Turtle Rescue Center cleans a sea turtle at their center north of Tel Aviv, in February.
A worker at the Israeli Sea Turtle Rescue Center cleans a sea turtle at their center north of Tel Aviv, in February.Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP
Zafrir Rinat

The executive committee of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds voted unanimously Thursday to compensate Israel for the damage caused by the worst oil spill in the country's history in mid-February.

It will decide on the amount of compensation later.

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The massive influx of tar polluted beaches from south of Ashkelon to Rosh Hanikra on the border with Lebanon, killing hundreds of animals, including many sea turtles. The cleanup and the effort to track down the source of the pollution cost Israel tens of millions of shekels.

The Environmental Protection Ministry eventually concluded that the pollution came from the Emerald, an oil tanker that traveled from Iran through the Suez Canal and dumped crude oil into the sea some 130 kilometers off the Israeli coast. An estimated 1,000 tons of tar washed up on Israel’s beaches.

Since the tanker was not insured, Israel could not sue its owners for compensation and turned to the international funds.

Israel submitted to the organization samples of the crude oil, the results of laboratory tests, details of its investigation, satellite photographs and a model of sea movements created by Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute. The findings were presented by Rani Amir, the Environmental Protection Ministry official responsible for marine environment protection, and Zvi Shapira of the Administration of Shipping.

After the spill, the government of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established a panel of ministry directors general to examine Israel’s preparedness for marine pollution. The panel has not yet completed its work, but one topic discussed was the need to provide the Environmental Protection Ministry with additional personnel and equipment.

The ministry recently issued a request for proposals to build a monitoring station in Ashkelon to help prevent marine pollution. The station is expected to significantly bolster the ministry’s ability to monitor sources of pollution, but its operations will depend on how much funding it receives and the staff members it will be able to hire.

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