Egypt seizes Liberian natural gas tanker for damaging coral reefs in Gulf of Aqaba

Amr Kandil , Sunday 14 Apr 2024

Egyptian authorities have seized a Liberian-flagged natural gas tanker that inflicted “significant damage” to coral reefs in Egypt's Ras Nasrani area, located in the Gulf of Aqaba, local reports said on Sunday.

Scuba divers dive in the Red Sea waters by a coral reef near Egypt s resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula. AFP


An assessment is underway to determine the extent of damage and estimate the appropriate fine to be imposed on the tanker per international law, an environment source at South Sinai's natural reserves said.

The fine is expected to reach tens of millions of dollars, the source estimated.

According to reports, the tanker ran aground on the reefs on its way to Russia after unloading its cargo at the Jordanian Aqaba port.

The ship’s captain said it deviated from its intended course due to an unforeseen malfunction, causing damage to parts of the coral reefs, a source cited by media said.

Ali Abu Senna, head of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), has ordered elevating the state of environmental emergency to address pollution risks, including the possibility of any leakage from the vessel.

Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad has also ordered increased preparedness levels at the Al-Salam Marine Pollution Control Centre in Sharm El-Sheikh.

The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba are home to over 250 coral species, encompassing five percent of the world's remaining coral populations.

These reefs provide vital sustenance and shelter for millions of marine organisms.

Egypt has various measures in place to protect its coral reefs, which contribute to a vibrant reef tourism sector, implementing measures such as installing buoys to deter vessels from anchoring in fragile areas.

The preservation and restoration of coral reefs in the Red Sea were focal points during the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), hosted by Sharm El-Sheikh in 2022.

The conference unveiled the Egyptian Red Sea Initiative (ERSI), which aims to combat the detrimental effects of climate change on the Red Sea's coral reefs.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged an initial amount of up to $15 million to support this initiative.

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