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Euro bid to clean up Suffolk shores

PUBLISHED: 22:51 14 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:51 03 March 2010

EURO politicians will be asked this summer to back new laws which could mean masters and owners of ships which pollute Suffolk's coast will in future face jail.

EURO politicians will be asked this summer to back new laws which could mean masters and owners of ships which pollute Suffolk's coast will in future face jail.

Meanwhile, it was revealed today that millions of pounds are to be poured into a new fund to help pay for the cost of clean-up operations of major oil spills.

The International Maritime Organisation is setting up the project, which will be funded by those importing the oil in participating countries.

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.

At the end of last year dozens of seabirds were killed and hundreds left contaminated after an oil slick washed up on the Suffolk coast.

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. 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 English Channel.

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.

Governments are currently being asked for their views on the proposals and the matter will be brought before the European Parliament this summer as part of a package of measures to deal with oil pollution and transportation.

Almost all the oil washed up on Suffolk's beaches is from vessels flushing tanks or dumping small amounts of oil.

The directive provides detailed rules for the discharge of polluting substances, including oil and chemicals, and makes any infringement of those rules illegal.

The new compensation fund will increase by 50pc the amounts which were previously paid out to help with the cost of dealing with pollution incidents caused by tankers.

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