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More oil slick deaths forecast

PUBLISHED: 10:52 07 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:09 03 March 2010

OIL slicks being washed up on the coast of East Anglia may come from a ship sunk as long ago as the Second World War, a Government minister said today.

OIL slicks being washed up on the coast of East Anglia may come from a ship sunk as long ago as the Second World War, a Government minister said today.

The news comes after the Evening Star yesterday launched a campaign to stop the Black Death.

Hundreds of oil-coated birds have been swept ashore in Suffolk and Norfolk over recent days, but mystery remains as to where the oil has come from, with no reports of major spills.

Experts from the Maritime Coastguard Agency have analysed the oil and found that its state suggests it has been in the water for a very long time.

Shipping minister David Jamieson said: "What we know is that the oil in the sea is very heavily weathered, so it has obviously been there a long time.

"Some of these cases can be oil that is leaking out of ships as old as sinkings from the Second World War. Some of these ships take a long time to rust and the bunker oil from the tanks which fuelled the engines can take up to 60 years to leak from the tanks.

"Occasionally we get these leaks around our coasts. There used to be a lot of them in the western approaches to the Channel. These have largely died out now, but we do still encounter these cases where it can date back that far."

Mr Jamieson yesterday attended a meeting of European shipping ministers which called for the phasing out of single-hulled oil tankers in the wake of the sinking of the Prestige off the coast of Spain.

But he said that the current slick in the North Sea could not be blamed on single-hulled vessels or on the illegal practice of washing out tanks while at sea.

A Met Office spokesman said that prevailing winds have switched from south-westerly to easterly and will remain in that direction over the coming days, leading to more oil being swept ashore.

He said: "It means anything on the sea surface is going to be pushed straight on to the Norfolk and Suffolk coast.'"

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