Masters could face jail

MASTERS and owners of ships which pollute the Suffolk coast in future could face jail, it was revealed today.EC officials have decided that marine pollution will be a criminal offence – but catching those responsible is still likely to be the major difficulty.

MASTERS and owners of ships which pollute the Suffolk coast in future could face jail, it was revealed today.

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, though some suggested it could have been from a sunken wreck.

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.

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Loyola de Palacio, vice president of the European Commission, said there were thousands of deliberate discharges of waste and cargo residues in the sea around Europe every year.

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

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