JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities said on Sunday they had cleared a Greek tanker of suspicion in relation to an oil spill that caused massive tar pollution on the Mediterranean coastline, devastating marine life.
It is seen as Israel’s worst maritime pollution incident in decades.
Powerful winds and unusually high waves pummelled Israel’s entire Mediterranean coastline on Feb 17 with tonnes of tar, staining 160 kilometres of beach from its borders with the Gaza Strip to Lebanon.
Volunteers have teamed up with authorities to clean the beaches, while officials from the environmental protection ministry launched an investigation into the source of the spill.
After an Israeli media report had named the Greek oil tanker Minerva Helen as a possible culprit, the ship’s owner, Minerva Marine Inc, firmly denied any connection to the spill.
On Sunday, the ministry said “following an inspection conducted in Greece on the Minerva Helen tanker, it has been cleared of suspicion of involvement in the severe tar event on Israel’s beaches”.
The ship’s owner said the Israeli media report was an “unfounded an inaccurate allegation”.
It said the ship had been in the Mediterranean in the days before the storm, “without any cargo on board” and therefore could not be linked to a spill.
The company also pledged to “cooperate with any relevant authority” interested in the Minerva Helen’s movements.
Israeli inspectors conducted “an extensive examination” of the Minerva Helen in the Greek port of Piraeus.
Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2021