Port fined for container slip pollution

PUBLISHED: 10:38 09 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:08 03 March 2010

FELIXSTOWE Dock and Railway Company has been fined £5,000 for causing pollution when a container accidentally fell off a ship, spilling 17 tonnes of liquid latex into the sea.

FELIXSTOWE Dock and Railway Company has been fined £5,000 for causing pollution when a container accidentally fell off a ship, spilling 17 tonnes of liquid latex into the sea.

Parts of the white rubber material were washed up along the coastline of Felixstowe and as far as the Port of Harwich, sparking fears from the Environment Agency that it could harm birds if it was ingested.

The incident happened at the Port of Felixstowe onboard a Bulgarian-run ship called MV Rousse on October 22, when a container became dislodged from a lock and plunged into the dock.

The Felixstowe Dock and Rail Company (FDRC) admitted causing pollution by spilling 17 tonnes of liquid latex rubber into Felixstowe Harbour, and were yesterday ordered to pay a £5,000 fine and more than £3,000 costs at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court in Ipswich.

The court heard that during an unloading operation carried out by the FDRC a container had accidentally become attached to another while it was being lifted.

Anne Brosnan, prosecuting on behalf of the Environment Agency, told the court the container had become loosened from the lock that was gripping it, causing it to hit the side of the ship before falling overboard into the dock.

The prosecutor said 17,000 litres of latex material was swept towards the coast of Felixstowe and up towards Landguard Point, which she said was an environmentally sensitive site.

Some of the particles were the size of a house brick, while others were the size of a pea, she added.

"A large length of the coastline was contaminated. The material from the container was lost in a stream of particles of latex and some of these were very small particles, and some were very large," said Miss Brosnan.

"A lot of the material was lost straight out to sea but came back again on the next tide and ended up on the coastline of Felixstowe, towards Landguard Point and into the Port of Harwich. A number of shore birds favour Landguard and also many migrating birds."

Miss Brosnan said the latex could pose a risk to the birds if they ingested it, but added it posed no threat to public health.

She added that the FDRC paid for the clean-up operation following the incident and for divers to recover the container.

But the Environment Agency criticised the fact that a boom, which is a type of cotton wool-style cloth which is used during oil spillage to contain the substance, was not put in place, Miss Brosnan told the court.

Nigel Meeson, defending, said that during the past five years 12.5 million containers had been moved on Felixstowe docks, and this case was the only event which had resulted in a pollution prosecution.

"The real fault in this case was that of the ship's owners. There was nothing my clients could reasonably do to have prevented this accident."

Mr Meeson said the company had not opted to activate a boom to collect some of the latex because experts had told them that it was not necessary.

"We do not believe it would have made any difference in this case," he added.

The company has to pay £5,000 in the next seven days as well as £3,895.71 costs.

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