Around two weeks ago, a ferry carrying 1,230 passengers caught fire in the Gulf of Aqaba en route to the Egyptian port of Nuweibeh. Despite three days of work to put out the fire, the ship named ‘Pella’ began to take on water due to the damage and eventually sank in the Aqaba’s waters five days later. One passenger died and 27 others were injured. Whilst an investigation is under way to find out the cause of the fire, Jordanian environmentalists have raised concerns that the Gulf of Aqaba will turn into junkyard without more stringent regulations to stop vessels being sunk there.
Lax Regulations Encouraging Dumping
Speaking to the Jordan Times, Faisal Abu Sondos who is project manager at the Royal Marine Conservation Society said, “Authorities must be aware that the Gulf of Aqaba is turning into a junkyard… it is apparent that ship owners are finding it easy to abandon and sink their vessels in Aqaba.”
He explained that lax laws regulating Jordan’s only seaport meant that some ship owners were finding it easy to abandon and sink their vessels. To protect marine life and also ensure that sea navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba is safe, he called for stricter laws to be formulated and carried through. The marine protection society also suggested that a ban on the sinking of ships in the Gulf of Aqaba be implemented.
‘Environment Not A Priority’
Sunken ships can be harmful to marine life as they carry toxic materials (oil and fuel) as well materials that may release toxins when they degrade and disintegrate. As the Gulf of Aqaba is narrow, sunken ships may also pose a navigation hazard. Fadi Sharaiha, executive director of the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan criticized the government for not towing the vessel to the shore before it sank.
Whilst rescue boats were quick to the scene to ensure no passengers were harmed it seems that there wasn’t the same level of concern for protecting the environment. As Sharaiha told the Jordan Times, “What happened is too much. The government should have acted fast in moving the ship the same way it responded to the emergency, but I guess the environment is not a priority.”
:: Image via Alex Polezhaev (Sashapo)/Flickr.
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