Oil spill firm fined

A FELIXSTOWE company is nearly £33,000 poorer today after admitting responsibility for a massive oil spill at the port.South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court fined Felixstowe Tank Developments (FTD) Ltd £18,000 and ordered the company to pay £2,000 to the RSPCA and £12,800 to cover the costs of the Environment Agency's 12-month investigation.

A FELIXSTOWE company is nearly £33,000 poorer today after admitting responsibility for a massive oil spill at the port.

South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court fined Felixstowe Tank Developments (FTD) Ltd £18,000 and ordered the company to pay £2,000 to the RSPCA and £12,800 to cover the costs of the Environment Agency's 12-month investigation.

FTD were charged with causing poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter the Orwell after the the Pagasus tanker spilled 2,000 gallons of recycled fuel oil on February 13 last year.

Two swans died and dozens more needed treatment after up to 20 tonnes of oil escaped into the Orwell Estuary from a fractured pipeline controlled by the company.


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Speaking after the case, Christopher McArthur, environment management team leader for the Environment Agency, said: "This was a major spillage of oil into the local estuaries with serious consequences for both wildlife and local communities.

"It was only by the prompt action of Harwich Haven Authority and ourselves that we minimised the repercussions."

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He added: "The fine imposed today demonstrates that we will not countenance the neglect of oil pipelines and systems that can then result in significant environmental damage following their failure.

"Lessons must be learned from this type of incident to prevent any likelihood of a repetition."

The prosecution told how the 40-year-old pipe, used to transfer the cargo to a storage tank on shore, ruptured due to corrosion.

The oil leaked into the harbour killing mute swans and coating other sea birds.

As the slick grew it spread into both the Orwell and Stour estuaries and into Walton backwaters.

Magistrates in Ipswich today heard from the Environment Agency which claimed the owners of the pipeline, Felixstowe Tank Developments (FTD) Limited, failed to carry out proper inspections of its pipeline which led to the accident.

Miriam Tordoff, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, blamed inadequate inspections and maintenance for the disaster, which led to mute swans dying and at least.

She said: "There were serious operational failures and serious environmental impacts on swans and sea life.

"The pipe was nearly 40 years old and at this age the company ought to have realised the risk of corrosion and inspected it to see if replacement was necessary."

Three members of staff were present to oversee the transfer of the oil which started at 10.40am.

Twenty-minutes later the pumping rate dropped and the pipeline jolted so two of the men checked the pipe but found nothing wrong.

At 11.30am a worker from nearby Dooley Quay noticed a very strong smell oil and spotted "a 40ft wide river of oil about 40ft from the Quay." The man called the company and pumping was stopped immediately.

The prosecution said it was very lucky then man was there and reported it when he did.

FTD quickly put up barriers to contain the oil in the quay to prevent it escaping into the rivers.

Only around one third of the oil slick – 600 gallons – was recovered by the emergency operation, which used booms to trap the oil and huge vacuum cleaners to suck it out of the water.

The court also heard that this was not the first time such an accident had occurred. In 1999, gallons of molasses leaked from a similar pipe into the water.

Tom Bainbridge, defending, said FTD carried out regular inspections, but did not keep written evidence of them, and did everything it could to help with the clean up operation.

What do you think of this case? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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