Eilat Hilton 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset Health and Environment Committee spared a moment on Monday to
consider the implications of increased activity on the part of the Eilat
Ashkelon Pipeline Co. on the Gulf of Eilat.
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If a massive oil spill
occurred in the gulf, it would have severe repercussions, the committee was
EAPC runs a pipeline from Eilat to Ashkelon that carries all types
of oil north. Since 2003, the pipeline has had the capability to carry oil south
as well. However, the Arab boycott has prevented ships from docking at
Eilat to take on oil for points south, for fear that Arab countries would not
let the ships dock after loading up in Israel.
Consequently, only about
four to six oil tankers come to Eilat Port each year. However, if the “reverse
flow” project were to get off the ground, activity at the Eilat terminal would
EAPC, the Eilat Municipality and the
Environmental Protection Ministry are prepared for Type I or Type II spills –
local or regional spills. However, a massive spill in which a 250,000- ton
tanker were to catch fire and rupture would be more than the state could handle,
Rani Amir, head of the Environmental Protection Ministry’s Sea and Beaches
Division, told the MKs.
Such a spill would likely destroy the coral reef.
No spill of such magnitude has ever occurred off of the country’s coast. In
fact, according to a Knesset Research Center report prepared for the committee’s
session, the volume of spills from tankers has been decreasing over the past
EAPC’s terminal is located at one of the most sensitive locations
along the Eilat coast – a couple of hundred meters north of the coral reef and
just south of the Dolphin Reef, according to the Knesset Research Center
Moreover, because the water is relatively deep in the gulf,
tankers can reach as close as 200 meters to shore, whereas in other ports, they
have to dock much farther out.
The head of the rapid response station
situated between EAPC’s terminal and the coral reef described the extremely fast
response time necessary to prevent serious damage.
“We have 15 minutes to
respond and to get equipment in the water. Moreover, the conditions in the water
are such that any oil spill won’t stay in the port but will always drift south
into the coral reef,” he told the legislators.
There is active
cooperation and training between Israel and Jordan, but none with Egypt, he
said. While there’s no active oil terminal in Aqaba, there is a tanker
permanently anchored in the gulf storing oil, he said.
Dov Henin (Hadash) was disturbed by the threat posed by the permanent stationing
of a tanker filled with oil, and demanded that the Foreign Ministry reach out to
Jordan on this issue.
Over and above the damage to the coral reef and
thus to tourism, an oil spill could have a disastrous effect on water quality in
Eilat, the Health Ministry representative warned. There’s an old desalination
plant in Eilat that provides drinking water for the city that would have a hard
time dealing with water contaminated with oil.
The Foreign Ministry
representative raised the issue that if the Red-Dead Conveyance were ever built,
it would pump 2 billion cubic meters of water a year out of the gulf to
desalinate and replenish the Dead Sea.
“A massive oil spill could force
any desalination plant to close, at least temporarily,” he said.
Red-Dead Conveyance is far from a sure thing, however.
The World Bank
will be conducting feasibility studies until at least the middle of
Then it will be up to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority
to decide whether it should be built. The cost of building it is estimated to
run in the billions of dollars.