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MP backs oil tanker legislation

PUBLISHED: 09:34 02 October 2009 | UPDATED: 09:32 11 May 2010

A NUMBER of businesses in the Lowestoft and Waveney area have been dealt a blow this week after the government announced it is to ban ship to ship oil transfers in UK territorial waters.

A NUMBER of businesses in the Lowestoft and Waveney area have been dealt a blow this week after the government announced it is to ban ship to ship oil transfers in UK territorial waters.

In recent months more than 30 tankers at a time have been anchored off the north Suffolk coast between Lowestoft and Southwold.

Businesses in the area, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, shops and taxis, as well as marine-based companies assisting the oil transfers, have benefited from the industry.

However, environmentalists, local residents and councillors have all spoken out about the potential threat to the important Heritage Coast and tourism industry if there was ever a spillage.

This week Waveney MP Bob Blizzard announced the government is planning to introduce legislation before the end of the year which would see ship to ship oil transferred banned in UK territorial waters.

The MP explained: “There are at present no regulations governing ship to ship transfers of hazardous substances like oil outside of harbours. While the industry thus far has a good safety record and is being monitored by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the increase in this activity heightens the risk. If something can go wrong, it will eventually go wrong, with potentially disastrous conse-quences and we cannot wait for that to happen before taking action. According to the MCA there have been some minor incidents in recent months.”

In 2008, the Department for Transport, on the recommendation of the MCA, drew up draft legislation to ban ship to ship transfers at sea.

However, public consultation showed that the regulations needed tightening to be effective and so the MCA and the Department of Transport have been drawing up revised legislation to put before Parliament by the end of this year. It is expected to be enacted by next spring.

Mr Blizzard said, “I welcome this legislation. While oil tanker transfers do result in a small contribution to the local economy, the risk is always there and an oil spill would damage Lowestoft's reputation for a long time and harm the environment too.

“I am proud to proclaim our ambition to make Lowestoft the offshore wind energy industry capital of Britain, but I don't feel it would be beneficial to boast that we are this country's oil tanker transfer capital!

“It is predominantly oil from Russia that is being transferred from smaller vessels to larger ones that are too deep for the shallower Baltic Sea. While some of the ships we can see are simply standing idle during the recession and will disappear as the world economy recovers, oil supplies from Russia are likely to increase.”

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