Israel has pointed the finger of blame for pollution of its beaches at Iran, saying an illegal delivery of crude to Syria had gone awry.
The tanker responsible for the pollution had loaded crude at Iran’s Kharg Island, Israel Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel said.
The ministry has accused the Emerald oil tanker of being responsible for the pollution. It cited information from TankerTrackers as showing the tanker had docked at Kharg and loaded 112,000 tonnes of crude.
Israel said it had discovered a permit for an offshore oil transfer, in the area between Cyprus and Syria.
The ship appears to have spilled oil on February 1 or 2. The ministry said the first sign of a spill appeared on February 5, with an oil stain around 130 km offshore. This moved east until reaching Israel’s shores on February 17.
On February 14, the Emerald transferred crude to the Iranian-flagged Lotus tanker. Satellite imagery appears to show the Emerald discharging Iranian crude onto the tanker, the Israeli ministry said.
The Lotus is a Syrian ship, it continued.
The transfer intended to provide Iranian crude illegally to Syria, the minister said. The tanker turned off its AIS tracking system once it left Iran. The crew turned this on while transiting the Suez Canal before turning it off again in Israeli waters.
TankerTrackers has also published a report on the Emerald. The tracking company said Emerald Marine has owned the Panamanian-flagged Aframax-sized tanker since December 2020. The company does not appear to have any other vessels.
TankerTrackers said it had not investigated whether or not the Emerald was responsible for the oil spill in early February. The company said it had been waiting for a report on the composition of the contamination washing up on the shore.
It went on to say the Lotus has been used to sail direct to Iran to pick up 1 million barrel cargoes at a time and has also been used as a temporary floating storage vessel. For the trip in question, the tanker delivered crude to Baniyas, TankerTrackers said, citing data from Planet Labs.
“Iran is waging terrorism not only by trying to arm itself with nuclear weapons or trying to establish a basis near our borders. Iran is waging terrorism by harming the environment,” she said.
“Our battle on behalf of nature and animals must be a cross-border one. Together, we will bring to justice those responsible for the environmental terrorism, those who committed this crime against humanity. We will continue to rehabilitate the damaged beaches and the animals that were harmed. Together, we will win, and we’ll remove the pollution from our country’s shores.”
On social media, Gamliel said the ship’s conduct had been intentional. “There is room here for an urgent discussion of all government bodies, including security agencies, aimed at a broader understanding of the threats to Israel’s economic waters, which are not only environmental.”