Millions to aid clearing oil spills

IF Suffolk's beautiful coastline was to be a victim of a disastrous oil spill, up to £180 million will be available from today to pay for the clean-up operation.

By RICHARD CORNWELL

Felixstowe editor

richard.cornwell@eveningstar.co.uk>

IF Suffolk's beautiful coastline was to be a victim of a disastrous oil spill, up to £180 million will be available from today to pay for the clean-up operation.


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Under new international compensation laws put forward by the British government, the money – a 50 per cent rise on previous sums available – will also help businesses and communities recoup their costs and losses.

The news is the second boost this month in the fight against the threat of an oil spill which faces all coastal communities.

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Last week rust-bucket oil tankers were banned from sailing past Suffolk's coastline – with the vessels being phased out far faster then expected.

Older single-hull tankers carrying heavy oils are no longer welcome in European waters, meaning ports such as Felixstowe and Harwich can no longer accept the ships, cutting substantially the risk of a spill or accident affecting Suffolk's internationally-protected estuaries and shores.

But newer single-hull vessels and double-hull ones can still travel the North Sea and there is always a risk of an accident, however small.

David Jamieson, Shipping Minister, said the government had worked hard for the compensation increase, first proposed in 2000 and subsequently agreed by 85 states at the International Maritime Organisation.

"I'm delighted that at last we are able to provide coastal communities with much stronger financial protection against damaging oil tanker spills," he said.

"The compensation regime will be now be able to respond much better to clean-up costs and the economic losses that can arise out of a major oil tanker disaster and ensure claimants have a better prospect of being paid quicker and in full.

"It is worth reflecting that this new overall limit of compensation is 330 per cent more than was available to meet the claims generated by the Braer in Shetland in 1993 and the Sea Empress in South Wales in 1996.

"This increase in compensation is an important first step in the current review of liability for pollution from oil tankers."

It is hoped compensation will rise even further – up to a total of 750 million Euros – following the Prestige disaster, but this is still being debated.

Most oil washed up on Suffolk's beaches and nature reserves does not come from tanker spills but from vessels illegally flushing out their tanks at sea –culprits who are never caught.

The Evening Star launched its Stop the Black Death campaign after an incident last winter when 300 seabirds were killed and another 600 left stricken and covered with oil from a slick which washed ashore.

Fist-sized lumps of oil were found from Walberswick to Felixstowe, but the source remained a mystery.

n What do you think – could more be done to protect our coastline from disaster at sea? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

WEBLINK: www.dft.gov.uk

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