Where have tankers gone?

THE long-running saga over oil tankers mooring off the coast between Southwold and Lowestoft has taken a new twist – most of them seem to have disappeared.

The sight of tankers moored off Sole Bay has become a common one off Waveney's coastline, sparking fears that a spillage could lead to a pollution incident that would threatening the district's seaside tourism industry.

But as Sole Bay prepares to become the only place in British territorial waters where tanker transfers can officially take place, the tankers appear to have weighed anchor and vanished.

John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, which has fought to ban the transfers, said that earlier in the week not one tanker was moored off Southwold and they had 'virtually disappeared from the area.'

He said there were two possible reasons for them disappearing: they might have moored over the horizon after receiving informal advice from the Ministry of Transport to avoid further controversy, or the global economic downturn had led to a fall in demand for oil.

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But if the government had asked the tankers to drop anchor further away from the coast, Mr Perkins said it was a 'partial victory' for the anti-tanker campaign.

The decision in June to allow Sole Bay transfers from October 1 follows a long running zone saga in which the practice in British waters was due to be banned by the previous Labour government.

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But the national ban was stopped by the government following an early-day motion signed by Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey and Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

There was then an extended public consultation to allow local people to have their say and more than 150 written objections were made.

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