International effort underway to assist in Lebanon oil spill

(See press briefing 29 for updated information)

An oil storage unit at a power plant in Jiyyeh, 30 km south of Beirut, sustained damage between 13 and 15 July. Precise details of the incident are yet to emerge. However, it is understood that, although a proportion of the oil burnt, some 10000 tonnes escaped and there is potential altogether for up to 35000 tonnes to be spilt. The Lebanese coastline, for some 70-80 km north of the power plant - approximately a third of the Lebanese coastline - has been affected. These areas are composed of sandy beaches, rocky beaches, fishing ports and marinas.

At the global level, IMO, referring to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (the OPRC Convention), is co-ordinating the international effort to assist Lebanon to respond to the oil spill, in close collaboration with the Joint Environment Unit of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and with the European Commission.

Under the terms of an interface procedure agreement between the two agencies, IMO and UNEP/OCHA will jointly try to identify environmental issues posing the greatest potential impact to human life and welfare.

In the meantime, activity is focused on collecting information on the development of the situation and providing technical advice. REMPEC, the centre established by IMO and UNEP in Malta to coordinate anti-pollution activities in the Mediterranean Sea, is actively gathering data, as is the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) operated by the European Commission in Brussels. REMPEC has put the Mediterranean Assistance Unit (MAU) on stand by. An expert from the MAU may be sent to the site to carry out an accurate assessment.

Following a request for assistance from the Lebanese Environment Minister to UNEP's Mediterranean Action Plan Co-ordinator and to REMPEC, action is to be taken at both the global and regional levels. In the regional context, REMPEC has forwarded the request for assistance from Lebanon to the Contracting Parties to the Emergency Protocol to the Barcelona Convention (the 1976 Barcelona Convention for the Protection of The Mediterranean Sea against Pollution). The Mediterranean Oil Industry Group (MOIG) has also been contacted. Positive responses from a number of countries, as well as from the European Community and from the industry, have already been received. However, such assistance can only be delivered when the situation will permit.

The Ambassadors of Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey have been informed by the Secretary-General of IMO of the actions currently being taken by the Organization and REMPEC, in co-operation with UNEP/OCHA and the European Commission.

Briefing 27, 2 August 2006

For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Head, Public Information Services on 020 7587 3153 ( or
Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274 (