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Oil slick 'disappeared' claim

PUBLISHED: 19:50 12 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:11 03 March 2010

EXPERTS have denied that they have lost trace of the oil slick which has been killing wildlife and damaging Suffolk's beaches.

Instead, the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), who regularly deploy a surveillance aeroplane to look for oil slicks, believe the 63 square metre (207sqft) sheen of oil has completely vanished.

EXPERTS have denied that they have lost trace of the oil slick which has been killing wildlife and damaging Suffolk's beaches.

Instead, the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), who regularly deploy a surveillance aeroplane to look for oil slicks, believe the 63 square metre (207sqft) sheen of oil has completely vanished.

They also doubt shipping minister David Jamieson's theory that the oil has leaked from a ship which could have sunk during the Second World War because there is no evidence as to where the slick came from.

A spokesman for the MCA, Fred Caygill, said: "They haven't lost trace. Ever since it was first reported on November 18, they have been monitoring the situation. There is no oil slick.

"As first reported there was some globules in the high water mark," said Mr Caygill referring to the lumps of oil found on the high tide mark on Suffolk's beaches. "Where that has come from it is unknown."

Mr Caygill added that the MCA had no evidence to point to how the leak came about but he said that last year 71 per cent of oil spills around the British Isles came from offshore oil and gas installations.

The MCA were first made aware of the oil spill by a member of the public, since then they have put their contingency plan in to action for such an event and have had an aeroplane surveying the problem.

The oil spill has been given the lowest grade of importance as it is such a small oil leak compared to other disasters like the Spanish are experiencing after the Prestige, which had 70,000 tons of oil aboard, sank off the Spanish coast.

By using their surveillance aircraft, the MCA managed to weigh the initial oil slick by using its ultra violet sensor on board. They assessed the thickness of the oil and took a calculation of the three kilogram weight from that.

The MCA has powers to prosecute offenders like those who wash out their ship's hold at sea, as it was initially believed happened when this oil slick appeared. Last year the average fine for those who created oil pollution was £5,806.

WEBLINK: www.mcga.gov.uk/pollution

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