£500m aid for oil spill victims
UP to £500 million will be made available for clean-up operations if there is a major oil spill off the Suffolk coast, it was revealed today.Seafaring countries from around the world have agreed to set up a new compensation fund to ensure that a disaster can be dealt with efficiently and correctly without the need to worry about its cost.
UP to £500 million will be made available for clean-up operations if there is a major oil spill off the Suffolk coast, it was revealed today.
Seafaring countries from around the world have agreed to set up a new compensation fund to ensure that a disaster can be dealt with efficiently and correctly without the need to worry about its cost.
But some countries are unhappy about the new compensation deal – saying that ship owners are getting off lightly when they should be paying for the pollution, while some small nations may have to raise taxes to pay their contributions.
The compensation plan has been put in place by the International Maritime Organisation and money will be contributed by governments as well as those importing oil.
Cash from the fund will only be triggered in the event of a major oil spill – such as the Prestige disaster off northern Spain when beaches and wildlife were soaked in 77,000 tonnes of oil.
It will not be called upon for incidents such as the slick which struck Suffolk last winter when dozens of seabirds were killed and hundreds left contaminated.
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Beaches from Felixstowe to Walberswick were left littered with fist-sized lumps of sticky oil, which was believed to have come from a ship illegally flushing out its tanks at sea, though some suggested it could have been from a sunken wreck.
More oil washed ashore early this year, though this is believed to have come from the sunken Tricolour in the southern North Sea.
But it will be a major help when another spill does happen and millions have to be spent to clean up a coastline and help wildlife.
A spokesman for the IMO said the compensation fund would pay 100pc of any claim from an affected country. The fund would come into operation in three months' time as soon as it has been ratified by at least eight states.
Meanwhile, Euro politicians will be asked this summer to back new laws which in future could mean masters and owners of ships which pollute face jail.
EC officials have decided that marine pollution will be a criminal offence – but catching those responsible is still likely to be the major difficulty.
Despite technological advances allowing oil samples to be matched to the vessels which discharged them, and pledges by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to increase surveillance, many minor polluters are still expected to escape justice.
The EC has now adopted a proposal for new laws which would mean, in the worst cases, that a ship's master, operator, owner, or charterer could face jail for causing oil pollution intentionally or through negligence.
n What do you think – should shipowners pay for the clean-up costs when their vessels cause pollution? Write to Evening Star letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk
MAJOR oil spills are thankfully rare – but when they happen, the damage caused is enormous.
The year 2002 was set to be one of the best yet for the low amount of oil being spilled at sea, until the Prestige disaster, which sent 77,000 tonnes onto the coast of northern Spain.
But despite a 90pc increase in the amount of oil transported at sea since 1985, the number of spills has decreased significantly over the past 30 years.
Figures from the International Tanker Owners' Pollution Federation show that in the 1990s there were only 7.3 major spills per year on average compared with the 24.2 spills a year in the 1970s.
The biggest headline-hitting spills of the past 25 years were the Atlantic Empress, 287,000 tonnes in 1979; Castillo de Bellver, 252,000 tonnes, 1983; Exxon Valdez, 37,000 tonnes, and Khard V, 80,000 tonnes, both 1989; ABT Summer, 260,000 tonnes, 1991; and Erika, 20,000 tonnes, 1999.