Port challenged over oil spill

IT is clear to everyone that the horrific oil spill at the Port of Felixstowe should never be allowed to happen again.Today – as frightened and dying oil-soaked birds were still being found on the banks of the Orwell – The Evening Star challenges the port to speak publicly about what happened and assure the public that it is taking proper action.

IT is clear to everyone that the horrific oil spill at the Port of Felixstowe should never be allowed to happen again.

Today – as frightened and dying oil-soaked birds were still being found on the banks of the Orwell – The Evening Star challenges the port to speak publicly about what happened and assure the public that it is taking proper action.

We have put 20 questions to the port.

These are 20 questions to which the public is entitled to an answer.


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It is not good enough for the port to hide behind its spin doctors, trained to make the best out of a terrible situation.

The answers should also reassure everyone that as much as possible is to be done to improve equipment and procedures to stop another spill in the future.

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Despite the authorities' assurances that this spill was acted on at once and cleaned up, it is now clear that untold harm has been done to wildlife which relies on the Orwell estuary for food and shelter.

Already dozens of oiled mute swans have been found, and the RSPCA fears it could be weeks before the true scale of the disaster for wildlife will be known.

By that time it will be too late for many of the birds. They will have died, digesting the oil during preening and trying to clean themselves, or simply too oiled to be able to find food or fly.

The Orwell estuary is an internationally-recognised conservation area with all sorts of laws protecting it and the birds which roost, feed and breed there.

The port has done magnificent work to support conservation of the estuary and compensate for the loss of habitat which its massive developments cause – but one oil spill can undo all the good work.

More than 40 oiled swans have been rescued by RSPCA inspectors from a long stretch of coast from Mistley Quay in Manningtree to Dovercourt, while one has been found in Ipswich. A further two have died.

The RSPB said it had inspected the banks of the River Stour and amazingly all wading birds and wildfowl had escaped the oil.

Harwich Port duty officer Peter Utterbridge said the last of the oil had been contained on Saturday afternoon, and all that would remain would be a sheen that would move backwards and forwards with the tide.

Mr Utterbridge added: "It's the first time we have had a major big spill like that for a few years now. There will probably be a review of the operation to clean it up and any lessons to be learnt will be noted and hopefully learned. But it went very well."

The 20 questions we are asking the Port of Felixstowe today:

1) How did the oil spill happen?

2) Was anyone watching the pumping operation – from either the ship or the quay?

3) How much oil in total was lost into the estuary?

4) What sort of oil was it?

5) Have repairs been carried out to the oil jetty, and if so, what work was needed?

6) Is the pipeline now back in operation again?

7) It is understood a ship was discharging oil at the time of the spill. Which vessel was it and who owns it?

8) How often, and for what purposes, is the pipeline used?

9) How much oil comes into the port of Felixstowe?

10) Is the port carrying out an internal investigation into the incident?

11) If so, when will this be complete?

12) Was the incident primarily a system / machinery failure or were any portworkers involved?

13) How quickly was the emergency alarm sounded after the incident so that the clean-up plans could swing into action?

14) What can be done to prevent a similar incident in the future?

15) Why was no announcement made to the public so that people could look for oil on the beaches and river banks, oiled birds and other environmental damage?

16) What part did the port play in the clean-up operation?

17) Does the port pay the costs of the clean-up and, if so, how much has it cost?

18) Will the port be subject to an external investigation?

19) What lessons have been learned from the incident and the effectiveness of the subsequent clean-up and what will happen to this information?

20) Why was the clean-up abandoned before all the oil was collected?

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