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Meeting about north Suffolk tankers?

PUBLISHED: 09:18 18 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:00 06 July 2010

PLANS for a public meeting about the tankers moored off the north Suffolk coast are progressing with a leading marine company giving the proposal its full support.

PLANS for a public meeting about the tankers moored off the north Suffolk coast are progressing with a leading marine company giving the proposal its full support.

James Reeder, vice-president of the Lowestoft and Waveney Chamber of Commerce, has been calling for a meeting so that the full facts of the tankers and oil transfers could be understood.

“I have heard from Fendercare Marine where the matter has been discussed within their management team and they are willing to support a public meeting so people have the right information,” said Mr Reeder.

Fendercare Marine are involved in the industry and make the large floating devices covered with tyres that are used as buffers between the tankers when the oil transfers are carried out.

The Seething-based company are one of a number of local businesses, including many in the Lowestoft area, that benefit from the tankers.

However, the growing number of tankers has prompted debate from coastal communities who fear that oil transfers could lead to an environmental disaster.

Ships have been gathering off the coast of Lowestoft and Southwold over the summer and there are currently about 40 large tankers moored on the horizon.

Now Southwold Town Council has decided to write to Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer to urge him to raise the issue in Parliament and call for a ban on the transfer of oil between the ships.

Speaking at a meeting of the town council on Tuesday night, councillor Simon Tobin said: “There are super tankers out there and there could easily be an incident. I don't think we should just say there's nothing happening and do nothing.

“We have a £25m a year tourism industry here and we would not be doing our job properly if we didn't write to the Government and ask questions about this.”

John Windell said: “It is quite disturbing, having all those ships off there full of oil. Having spoken to people, I don't think opinions are really split, except between those people making money from the ships and those who have to live here.”

The tankers, which are between eight and 12 miles offshore, are governed by strict international safety rules but the transfer of oil is permitted between vessels.

Although the council voted to contact Mr Gummer so that the issue can be raised at a national level, opinions about the possible threat posed by the tankers differed.

Councillor John Miller said: “It is very romantic when you see the lights out there at sea at night. We can cause uproar and write letters but it won't make much difference at all. The ships will stay there, and then they'll disappear when the economic situation improves.”

The Marine and Coastguard Agency, which monitors the activity, has said that the ships do not need permission to transfer oil and that transfers in UK waters have an excellent safety record.

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