The Ministerial Committee for Environmental Issues on Sunday approved the national plan for dealing with an offshore oil spill. Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra, who chairs the committee, presented the administrative and organizational plan with his recommendation for approval. The next step is enshrining it in legislation. Chances of a serious oil spill off the Mediterranean or Red Sea coast are relatively high, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry, because 30 percent of all sea trade passes through the Mediterranean and 20% of all oil transported by sea does, as well. The potential damage, both monetary and environmental, of a serious spill would also be very high. A spill off the coast of France from the Erika caused â‚¬180 million in damage. A year ago, a court awarded damages from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 to the tune of $2.5 billion. Money aside, the environmental cost would be extremely high to those ecosystems affected - both at sea and on land. The ministry was instructed by the government to prepare the contingency plan in 1998, after Israel became a signatory to the OPRC declaration in 1990. Produced a decade after a government decision calling for a protocol on addressing oil spills, the plan outlines exactly how Israel should respond: identify the scope of the problem, minimize the damage, and rehabilitate the area. In addition, the plan calls to map out sensitive coastal areas and simulate various scenarios. There are three tiers of potential problems. The first tier is one with which an affected local authority can deal on its own. The second describes a medium-sized spill that would require more resources than a given local authority has. The third tier would be a huge spill that would require national mobilization and even international assistance. According to the plan, the Transportation Ministry's ships and ports authority or the ministry's beaches and sea arms would have overall responsibility in the event of an oil spill. Local authorities, the Israel Navy, the police and others would become involved as needed. Hadera, Netanya and Ashkelon are considered the most sensitive areas along the coast and would receive first preference for treatment. Herzliya and Tel Aviv-Jaffa and its environs are considered the least sensitive, and therefore would receive the lowest priority for treatment. While no major oil spill has yet damaged Israel's shores, there were minor oil spill incidents in both 2005 and 2007.