Environment Ministry restricts tankers allowed to Eilat under deal on UAE pipeline
Environmental Protection Ministry delays implementation of controversial oil deal between state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) and an Israel-United Arab Emirates consortium by limiting the number of Gulf tankers that can dock each year in Eilat to a maximum of six, while the company seeks a green light for 30.
According to a letter sent last week by the director of the ministry’s marine protection unit, Rani Amir, to the pipeline company, the decision – which also limits the amount of oil that can be imported each year to two million tonnes – was based on gaps in a second risk survey provided by the EAPC. as well as a lack of adequate preparation for possible oil spills.
In July, Amir dismissed the EAPC’s first environmental risk investigation, saying it failed at best to follow instructions given by the ministry in January 2021, but more likely reflected “negligence. and maybe even contempt for our instructions ”.
In last week’s letter, Amir said there were still “significant gaps” between the January ministry instructions and the updated risk investigation submitted by the EAPC earlier this month.
Among the many pieces of information missing, one concerned data on incidents and incidents of pollution at sea or on land that had occurred under the company’s surveillance during the years of its activity in Eilat.
Last year, for example, the company and others were found guilty of damaging the protected nature of the Red Sea after damaging more than 2,600 corals off the coast of Eilat.
EAPC’s agreement with the RED-MED consortium was concluded in a memorandum of understanding last October, the content of which has not been disclosed. It is still unclear which government department, if any, was involved in the details.
The deal calls for the UAE to use Israel as a land bridge across which to deliver crude oil destined for southern European markets. The oil is supposed to arrive in Eilat on the Red Sea and ship to Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast to be loaded onto tankers bound for Europe.
The plan faces opposition from the Israel Parks and Nature Authority, a forum of some 20 environmental organizations and dozens of scientists and residents of Eilat, given the poor environmental record of the EAPC and the many past leaks – it was responsible for the world’s biggest environmental disaster six years ago. in Israel’s history – and the importance of Eilat’s coral reefs not only to the city’s tourism and employment sectors, but also globally.
On Saturday, dozens of Israelis demonstrated against the deal along roads and bridges across the country.
Given the scale of the opposition, an inter-ministerial commission in the prime minister’s office was tasked with reviewing the deal. On Saturday, Foreign Minister and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid promised the investigation would be “thorough, deep and serious.”
Amir also criticized the company for failing to adequately model a serious oil spill in the area or for failing to relate, if at all, at worst, as an ongoing spill for some time, continues. the letter.
He also said the submitted ecological analysis suffered from “fundamental flaws”, providing only general information and “misrepresentation” and failing to link oil leaks to the potential for damage to the marine environment.
Amir wrote that the EAPC only responded in July to years of requests to establish an emergency oil spill station that could handle a maximum of six tankers per year.
Even then, the company had purchased equipment and made only “minimal and necessary preparations” so that it only received approval until the end of this month.
Emergency preparations to date were woefully insufficient to deal with 30 or more tankers per year, Amir said, despite EACP claims to the contrary.
In addition, the company had only applied for and obtained a toxic material permit for two million tonnes of oil per year, which could not be used for larger quantities.
A permit would only be granted on the basis of the EAPC port in Eilat receiving up to six tankers, carrying up to two million tonnes of oil per year, according to the letter.
The EAPC had previously told the High Court that the risks of an oil spill damaging the environment were “negligible”.
The EAPC did not respond to the letter or comment on the effect of the ministry’s decision on the deal with RED-MED, responding only by saying that the company is at the heart of the state’s energy security, is committed to protecting the environment and the safety of local residents, and operates in accordance with the strictest local and international regulations.