EnvironmentMiddle EastTankers

Israel identifies tanker it believes caused huge spill

Israel says it has identified the tanker it believes is responsible for the huge oil spill that has washed up across the eastern Mediterranean in recent weeks.

Environmental protection minister Gila Gamliel said yesterday the Emerald, a tanker belonging to Libya’s state-run General National Maritime Transport Co, was responsible for the spill which has caused severe ecological problems for much of the Israeli and Lebanese coastlines.

Gamliel said the Panamanian-flagged ship had headed from Iran via the Suez Canal through the Mediterranean to Syria. It is alleged to have switched off its AIS at the beginning of last month as it entered Israeli waters, at the time that the pollution is believed to have first been tracked.

The ministry presented what it said was strong “circumstantial evidence” that this was the ship behind the spill, though it did not have “forensic evidence” with Gamliel describing the incident as “environmental terrorism”.

General National Maritime Transport Co has not responded to the allegations made by Israel.

Mapping data supplied to Splash from MarineTraffic shows the route of the Emerald from January 30 to February 3, showing it was near the Israeli coastline when the oil spill occurred.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Is there perhaps a suggestion that the spill may not have been entirely accidental?

    Certainly analysis by gas chromatography mass of samples of the oil washed ashore will be able to identify, accurately, the oilfield that it came from.

  2. Libya, Iran, Syria & Panama all have poor PSC records. Was it unintentional oil pollution or deliberate act of terrorism. UN must define terrorism to include such deliberate environmental pollution discharge by ships on innocent passage.
    What was Israeli Coast Guard or Maritime Forces doing? No patrol, no monitoring, no reconnaisance over its waters. Switched off AIS is no excuse. Israel must take-up the issue strongly within IMO.

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