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Call to scrap ship laws

PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 July 2010 | UPDATED: 21:50 01 August 2010

Two coastal MPs have called for new laws banning ship-to-ship oil transfers in territorial waters off the Suffolk coast to be scrapped.

Two coastal MPs have called for new laws banning ship-to-ship oil transfers in territorial waters off the Suffolk coast to be scrapped.

Two coastal MPs have called for new laws banning ship-to-ship oil transfers in territorial waters off the Suffolk coast to be scrapped.

Two coastal MPs have called for new laws banning ship-to-ship oil transfers in territorial waters off the Suffolk coast to be scrapped.

Earlier this year, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency carried out a public consultation into proposed legislation to ban transfers in British waters, and the formal documentation was tabled by the department for transport in April.

But now, just months before the law is due to come into force on October 1, a group of MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) against the impending ban.

A stretch of water between Lowestoft and Southwold has become a favourite site for tankers bringing oil from Russia to transfer their cargo to larger vessels, a practice which raised some concerns locally that any accident could lead to oil pollution ruining the coastline.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous and Suffolk Coastal MP Terese Coffey are among five MPs who have signed the EDM, calling for the legislation to be annulled.

Mr Aldous said that the economic benefits of having the tankers offshore needs to be considered alongside any possible environmental impacts.

He said: “I am concerned that these regulations which were rushed through by the previous government will have a damaging impact on a wide variety of businesses in the Waveney area.

“While I understand the legitimate safety concerns many people have, at a time when we should be looking to protect jobs in our local economy, this important issue should be fully debated in the House of Commons before any decision is made.”

James Reeder, company secretary of business group Enterprise Lowestoft, said that offshore transfers bring valuable business into Lowestoft.

He said: “The guest houses and the tugs which take out buoys and look after the ships are all making money. This legislation would just push the tankers past the 12 mile offshore limit of territorial waters and that money would go elsewhere and the practice would be more difficult to legislate.

“I understand the environmental concerns and I think this needs a full, public debate before any laws are made. I think that managing the situation would be more sensible than chasing it away.”

A spokesman for the department for transport said: “The minister is aware of the concerns about the ship to ship legislation and continues to speak to interested parties about it during the course of routine meetings.”

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