Ship owners behind disastrous oil spill in Israel’s crosshairs

The Emerald is owned by the Greece-based Onyx Shipping Ltd., a shell company operating on behalf of the Syrian businessman Luay Mallah.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Israel’s investigation of the ship it suspects to be the cause of the worst ecological disaster to hit the Jewish State in decades continues, as Israeli government officials warn of serious consequences for the ship’s owners.

Israel Hayom reports on Tuesday that a British expert from a laboratory in the UK, which deals with oil pollution in the sea, arrived in Israel over the weekend to take tar samples to help Israel build its case.

The Panama-flagged tanker named the Emerald, which was formerly owned by the Libyan government, is suspected by the Israeli government to be the ship responsible for an oil spill in February which tarred more than 100 miles of Israel’s coastline.

The Emerald is owned by the Greece-based Onyx Shipping Ltd., which Israeli media reported is a shell company operating on behalf of the Syrian businessman Luay Mallah.

After satellite imaging and laboratory tests, the Israeli government determined that the Emerald is the source of the spill.

Reportedly, the tanker was sailing from Iran to Syria when the spill occurred. Because both Iran and Syria are subject to international sanctions, ships clandestinely transporting oil between the nations often turn off their tracking devices for parts of the voyage.

According to the Israeli government, the Emerald’s location tracker went dark as it sailed through the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Its Automatic Identification System was temporarily switched on during transit through the Suez Canal, then turned off again as it passed by Israel at the time of the spill.

“Satellites discovered two more stains between Cyprus and Syria, in the area the ship had sailed,” read a statement from Israel’s Environment Ministry.

“The vessel returned to Iran again, again in the ‘dark’ when it entered Israel’s economic waters; it stayed that way until it reached a port in Iran, where it is currently anchored.”

Despite Environmental Minister Gila Gamliel’s statement that it was an act of “environmental terrorism,” Israeli security officials believe that the incident was unintentional.

Now that Israel has zeroed in on the ship’s owners, it’s likely that the state will seek financial compensation for the disaster.