Rustbuckets to be banned

RUST-bucket oil tankers are to be banned from sailing past Suffolk's coastline far sooner than planned – after Euro MPs voted to phase them out faster.

RUST-bucket oil tankers are to be banned from sailing past Suffolk's coastline far sooner than planned – after Euro MPs voted to phase them out faster.

MEPs have decided that single-hull tankers should be immediately barred from carrying heavy oil in European waters and these timebombs waiting to spill their deadly cargoes will not be allowed to transport any oil at all by 2010.

The move will please environmentalists who have feared that Suffolk's coast could one day see the type of disaster which has struck other beauty spots.

But while it will safeguard the county's internationally-important shores and estuaries against a major spill, it will still not stop its main oil pollution problems.

For most of the oil washed up on beaches and nature reserves comes from vessels illegally flushing out their tanks at sea – and the culprits are never caught.

The Evening Star launched its Stop the Black Death campaign after last winter's incident when 300 seabirds were killed and another 600 left stricken and covered with oil from a slick which washed ashore.

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Fist-sized lumps of oil were found from Walberswick to Felixstowe, though the source remained a mystery.

Tankers travel up and down the Suffolk coast every day, taking oil to northern Europe but also to refineries at Harwich.

Following the Prestige disaster, in which 20,000 gallons of oil was spilled off northern Spain, the European Union decided it was time to act.

It drew up plans to phase out the older tankers – those over 20 years old – by 2015 but now says they should be gone by 2010.

A joint statement from MEPs said: "Old, unsafe and dangerous oil tankers like to 26-year-old single-hull tanker Prestige will no longer be allowed to transport oil in EU waters.

"In future, heavy grades of oil will be transported by double-hull tankers only."

Vice president of the European Commission in charge of transport and energy, Loyola de Palacio said: "These are spectacular steps ahead which are taking place and I am very happy to see these crucial initiatives finally approved by the European Parliament, which paves the way for a definitive adoption and an entry into force in the coming weeks.

"The agreement, only seven months after the Prestige disaster, is a very strong signal for increased maritime safety. Europe was able to react."

The parliament voted for the double-hull tankers by 501 to five, with 14 abstentions.

n What do you think – is enough being done to protect our coastline from disaster at sea? Write to Evening Star letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail


MAJOR oil spills are thankfully rare – but when they happen, the damage caused is enormous.

Last year was set to be one of the best yet for the low amount of oil being spilled at sea, until the Prestige disaster, which sent 77,000 tonnes onto the coast of northern Spain.

But despite a 90pc increase in the amount of oil transported at sea since 1985, the number of spills has decreased significantly over the past 30 years.

Figures from the International Tanker Owners' Pollution Federation show that in the 1990s there were only 7.3 major spills per year on average compared with the 24.2 spills a year in the 1970s.

The biggest headline-hitting spills of the past 25 years were the Atlantic Empress, 287,000 tonnes in 1979; Castillo de Bellver, 252,000 tonnes, 1983; Exxon Valdez, 37,000 tonnes, and Khard V, 80,000 tonnes, both 1989; ABT Summer, 260,000 tonnes, 1991; and Erika, 20,000 tonnes, 1999.

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