Crisis chief blames antiquated vessel for bitumen spill off Port Tewfik

Mahmoud Ismail, head of the Environment Ministry’s crisis management department, has criticized the government for allowing antiquated vessels to sail in Egypt's territorial waters.

His criticisms come in the wake of the sinking last week of a cargo ship carrying a large shipment of bitumen off of Port Tewfik.

“Radioactive material is shipped by air–not by sea–in anticipation of piracy,” Ismail explained. “Bitumen is considered a 'class-A’ hazard,” he added, noting that the ministry was currently inspecting the port in which the vessel had sunk in order to determine pollution levels.

“We also banned fishing activity around the port for an entire month,” he said, pointing out that responsibility for the accident should lie with the ship owner in the event that the water was found to be polluted.

“The owning company should pick up the tab," he said.

Ismail went on to note that some 20,000 ships pass through Egypt's strategic Suez Canal every year.

“Accidents, however, are well controlled,” he said, adding that the worst accident to take place within the past 30 years was in 2006, when 3000 tons of mazut leaked into the canal.

“We can manage open-sea pollution of up to 5000 tons,” Ismail noted.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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