Suspicion falls on Greek-flagged oil tanker in gigantic spill tarring Israel’s coastline

Oil tanker that sailed nearby was found to have been involved in a major oil spill 13 years ago.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

An investigation into the source of the oil spill that washed up on Israel’s beaches three days ago revealed that one of the ships that sailed in the area around the time of the incident was involved in a major oil spill in Scandinavia in 2008, Kan News reported Monday.

On Saturday, a dead whale washed up on the beach near Tel Aviv around the same time as black, sticky tar was discovered all along Israel’s coastline. The oil killed other wildlife as well, including birds, fish and turtles. Thousands of volunteers and soldiers have been busy since then cleaning up as much of the mess as possible.

Attention was drawn to a Greek-flagged tanker, which sailed out of Egypt around the time of the spill. In January 2008, a malfunction occurred during the transfer of oil to the ship while it was in the port of Copenhagen in Denmark, causing 200,000 liters to be spilled.

While the owners of the vessel denied involvement in the recent spill in the Mediterranean, it was in the area at the time. In an unusual move, a ban order on publication of details of the investigation was imposed by the Magistrate’s Court in Haifa, the report stated.

The order, which is valid until Feb. 28, prohibits the publication of any details of the investigation or any details that could identify the suspects, including the name of the vessel, ports of departure and destination, cargo and shipping lane.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection stated that the international investigation is complex and sensitive and could be disrupted if any details are published.

What is known, however, is that an analysis of the estimated location of the source of the pollution identified 10 vessels that could have caused the spill and their names had already been published online.

The environment ministry had an emergency plan in place and had even practiced a scenario three months ago similar to the current oil spill, but it was criticized for apparently not making enough of an effort to stop the pollution while it was still far from the shoreline and failing to warn local authorities early enough.

On Sunday, the Health and Environmental ministries issued a joint statement calling on the public not to go to the beaches until further notice due to tar pollution. The warning is for the entire 273 kilometers (170 miles) of coastline on the Mediterranean stretching from Ashkelon in the south to Rosh Hanikra in the north.