FUJAIRAH // An oil spill on Fujairah’s coastline led to a ban on people swimming at several hotels.
The two kilometre-long spill, which was first spotted off the coast of the Al Aqah area of Dibba on Monday, forced beach closures but did not immediately appear to affect wildlife.
“The oil patches were spotted on Monday morning at about 9am and they were covering the whole beach, so I decided to close the beach and raise the red flag to prevent anyone from swimming,” said Ashraf Helmy, area general manager of the Miramar hotel.
“We contacted the authorities and they sent a team to clean the shores and, with the help of our team, they managed to remove the oily sand and clear the beach by today [Tuesday].
“We used to see oil slicks quite often in the past, about eight years ago.
“At the time we stopped all the water activities for the safety of the guests and many guests were annoyed and filed complaints to us.”
About 700 guests at the Miramar were affected by the swimming ban until it was lifted on Tuesday morning.
“It’s something that rarely happens nowadays and it’s cleared now, but we hope that it won’t affect the tourism in the area as we work hard on promoting it,” Mr Helmy said.
“Most probably it was caused by inaccurate cleaning of oil tanks on ships, which should be monitored and banned because such acts could harm marine life and water.”
Rotana Al Aqah resort beach was also closed and will stay closed until Wednesday.
“We closed the beach on Monday after we noticed the oil slick. We directly started the clean-up process with the municipality’s help,” said Murad Al Khory, the area general manager.
“We offered alternative activities for our guests and did everything we could to compensate them.”
Tourists who visit Fujairah to enjoy its clear waters, unique landscape and moderate weather were disappointed by the beach ban.
“This is our third visit to Al Aqah and we come here to enjoy the water but, unfortunately, this time our vacation was interrupted by this phenomena,” said Karl Seubart, from Germany.
The 32-year-old came from Abu Dhabi with his friends on Monday and was planning to stay until Thursday.
“But we are checking out today. We changed our plans due to the current conditions and will go to another hotel in RAK [Ras Al Khaimah]. It won’t be the same in RAK but maybe we can come back later this year.”
While beachgoers were affected, divers and fishermen were not because the oil spill was near the shore and they were going farther out to sea.
“Fishing wasn’t disrupted and no complaints were received from fishermen over the past two days. There were no reports of any oil in their fishing nets,” said Sulaiman Al Khuddam, head of Dibba Fishermen Association.
Dibba Municipality’s environmental protection department was at Al Aqah beach monitoring the spill and helping with the clean-up.
“We acted directly after receiving reports about oil spills seen near the shores. Everything should be cleared by today [Tuesday]. We are removing the oil from the sand but the reason [for the spill] is still unclear,” said a member of the team.