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Shipping boss hits back at tanker transfer wrangle

PUBLISHED: 10:20 31 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:47 06 July 2010

THE manager of a Lowestoft-based shipping company has spoken of the strict rules and regulations governing transfers of oil between tankers off the coast of East Anglia.

THE manager of a Lowestoft-based shipping company has spoken of the strict rules and regulations governing transfers of oil between tankers off the coast of East Anglia.

James Laird, who runs Felixarc Marine, has hit back following Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer's calls for action to stop the practice off the coast of Southwold amid fears that a spill would lead to an environmental disaster.

Mr Laid said that all ship-to-ship transfer operations take place within international waters and under strict methodology and procedural guidelines.

He said that every oil tanker and ship of a certain volume must have onboard an oil record book which can be inspected by port state control at any given time.

“If this log book has not been completed or has been in any way altered from an original entry then a criminal event has taken place,” he said, adding that the oil record book must be retained onboard for three years after the date of the last entry.

Mr Laird said that, in the UK, if an oily mixture is discharged into the sea, the owner of the vessel and the master would each be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £250,000.

“My company has been extensively audited, and I for one will not tolerate any bad practice from both client and crew,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on the product we deliver to the client knowing that we are protecting vessel, life and the environment.

“My crews are highly trained in all aspects of our core industry and this extends over ship-to-ship tanker operations.

“The operations are within international waters 12 nautical miles from the UK coast and as such these vessels are not breaking any laws.”

Mr Laird added: “In these terrible times of worldwide recession and depression, here on the East coast of England we are almost gifted to have these opportunities on our doorstep. This combined with the renewable energy market and companies like mine offering not just a job, but a career to young local people.”

Mr Gummer said earlier this month that he wants the government to put an end to ship-to-ship transfers of oil off the coast at Southwold amid fears a spill would lead to an environmental disaster. It has emerged that Southwold is the only place in England where licensed oil transfers can take place and in recent months large numbers of tankers have been congregating there.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says that these transfers take place across the globe and UK transfer operators have an excellent safety record.

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