Risks

As considerable as this pollution was, it was neither the first major oil spill in the eastern Mediterranean, nor the largest spill in this sea, nor the most serious oil spill at sea due to acts of war. This pollution can be compared to other pollution references, in particular to the oil pollution caused by the Gulf War (at least 700,000 tonnes, in 1991), the fire and explosion of the oil tanker the Irenes Serenade off the coast of Pylos (Greece) in 1980 and the Haven near Genoa (Italy) in 1991, with respectively 40,000 tonnes and 133,000 tonnes of crude oil onboard, as well as the 10,000 m³ spill of crude oil from the oil tanker the Al Samidoun in the Suez Canal in 2004.

These references indicated that the Lebanon pollution was likely to have a serious local impact which would require considerable clean-up efforts and expenses. However, it would not endanger the eastern Mediterranean's natural balance, or any species in particular.

The pollution observed at sea did not arrive on a clean, untouched shoreline. The heavily urbanised Lebanese coast is home to the largest cities in the country and many tourist beaches. The natural populations often suffer deterioration. Two nature reserves should however be noted: a green turtle reproduction area at Tyr beach south of Jieh and a bird migration area at Palm Island, off the coast of Tripoli, a special Mediterranean protection area within the Barcelona Convention.

Emulsified slicks washed up on the shoreline, where they oiled the populations and the substrates in the area beaten by the swell and affected by the tides (the tidal range is from 10 to 40 cm in Lebanon). This area is mainly made up of rocky substrates and secondly (15%) of sandy beaches. Part of the heavy emulsion resulting from the weathering of the fuel was liable to sink in the coastal areas due to mixing with matter in suspension and sediments.

The ecosystems were in the active phase at the time of the incident (reproduction, growth...). This led to the risk of localised medium to long term consequences, such as the loss of an age group.

Clean-up site, Ramlet al Baida, September 2006
Clean-up site, Ramlet al Baida, September 2006
Last update: 01/12/2006