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North Suffolk oil tanker spill fears

PUBLISHED: 09:51 30 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:27 06 July 2010

CONSERVATION chiefs last night voiced fears about the potentially catastrophic impact of any spill from tankers sitting along the Suffolk coast while they wait for oil prices to rise.

CONSERVATION chiefs last night voiced fears about the potentially catastrophic impact of any spill from tankers sitting along the Suffolk coast while they wait for oil prices to rise.

Since the start of the recession, fully laden vessels have been moored in the North Sea at an anchorage between Southwold and Lowestoft, fuelling concerns about the impact that even a small accident could have on wildlife along the sensitive stretch of shoreline.

It is now believed the number of tankers moored off Suffolk stands at 42 - and last night conservation chiefs aired their concerns about the potential effect a spill could have on the environmentally important Heritage Coast, which is also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Malcolm Farrow, of Suffolk Coast and Heaths, said even a small spill could be disastrous for fauna and flora, especially visiting birds such as red throated diver, cormorant and great crested grebe.

Mr Farrow said: “It's a real concern because even a small spill or accident has the potential to be disastrous.

“It is an environmentally sensitive stretch of coastline and one of the finest in the country.”

Audrey Boyle, spokesperson for Suffolk Wildlife Trust, added: “There are a lot of international conservation designations all along our coast and any spill would have the potential to be pretty catastrophic.”

As the oil price fluctuates, smaller tankers have gone alongside the giant oilers and the cargoes are discharged and taken to refineries.

There is also a problem with large tankers not being able to access ports in northern Russia and much of the oil being offloaded is being shipped to the Arctic ports.

Following the intervention of Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has promised he will insist that any future transfer of oil must be done in a port.

Mr Gummer said: “I have had an undertaking from the Government and hopefully we should see some change before Christmas - however I will be watching the situation very carefully.

“A spill of any kind could be tremendously damaging to a very vulnerable coastline. Apart from the impact on our flora and fauna there could be an economic cost - particularly the beaches. This is a major holiday destination and tourism is a major industry. It would be a disaster for us if we had a spill.”


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