Israel is searching for the ship responsible for a major oil spill that led the country to close all beaches along the Mediterranean Sea. Environment Minister Gila Gamliel says there is ‘a more than reasonable chance’ that the vessel in question can be identified.

Sticky lumps and slicks of tar washed up on an estimated 170 kilometres of the 190-kilometre-long coastline over the weekend. It is believed to be the result of an oil spill on a ship several dozen kilometres off the coast. It is still unclear whether this is crude oil residue or fuel oil used by ships.

Nine ships under investigation

According to Gamliel, nine ships are believed to have been in the region at the time of the spill and are being investigated. The spill is believed to have occurred last week and a winter storm blew the slurry towards the coast over the weekend.

The first sign that something was wrong was the beaching of a seventeen-metre fin whale that had ingested oil. Environmental organisations are talking about a huge disaster, the consequences of which will be felt for months and possibly even years to come. If the culprit is found, Israel wants to recover the costs of the pollution from the ship’s owner.

This article first appeared in Dutch on Nieuwsblad Transport, a publication of SWZ|Maritime’s publishing partner Promedia.

Picture: Oil sheen on water (by Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection).