Jordan Detains Egyptian Cargo Ship Accusing it of Damaging Coral Reef
Jordanian officials have ordered an Egyptian-owned cargo ship to be detained at the port of Aqaba after the vessel grounded in the country’s marine reserve park. It is the second vessel in two months to cause damage to the reserve area with the Jordanian Maritime Authority reporting it is investigating the repeat occurrence of a vessel traveling outside the channel.
The Lotus, an 8,500 dwt general cargo ship was entering the port at 6:50 a.m. local time on Tuesday, September 13 when it grounded in the marine reserve. The preservation area, a prime location for tourists and divers, makes up about half the 16-mile coastline and lies near the entrance to Jordan’s only seaport.
The Jordanian Royal Navy assisted in removing the 356-foot vessel which is registered in Palau from the reef and escorted the ship to the dock in Aqaba for an inspection. The staff of the Jordanian Maritime Authority boarded the vessel to assess the situation. The head of the port authority told local media that they were “taking a measure to prevent the ship from traveling until the investigation is completed.”
The vessel was reported to be arriving empty with its AIS signal showing it was coming from Somalia. It was expected to load a cargo of potash at the fertilizer pier.
Noaman Al-Saifi, head of the Maritime Authority made an official statement reporting that they were sending divers to inspect the coral reef. “It's too early to talk about damages, if there are damages,” he was quoted as saying by state media. Later in the day, however, the state-owned Al-Mamlaka TV was reporting that there is substantial damage to the reef.
In August, Jordanian authorities detained another Egyptian-run vessel, the Flower of the Sea, accusing the cargo ship of having spilled 11 tons of fuel oil in the same area. Jordanian media reports that both vessels are operated by Sea Gate Management with the Flower of the Sea having a history of detentions and deficiencies in prior port state inspections.
The 10,500 dwt vessel, also registered in Palau, was reported to have contaminated a section of the marine reserve on August 14 with the spill later washing up on Jordanian beaches and spreading to the Egyptian side of the Gulf of Aqaba. The case was referred to Jordanian prosecutors later in August.