Therese’s new law is a wreck remover

DOWN deep, hidden in our coastal waters, are the remains of thousands of wrecks. Few of them today cause any trouble to shipping – though there is an old warship filled with eroding bombs gradually rotting away at the mouth of the Thames which is best avoided and may one day simply explode.

We will probably hear it even in Suffolk.

A modern shipping disaster though can cause horrendous problems – for other ships, wildlife in the sea and on the shores, and beaches.

Remember the MSC Napoli, whose cargo was stripped bare by beach scavengers after it was washed ashore?

The wreck caused all sorts of troubles for months while it was argued over and before it could be cleared up.

Imagine a wreck blocking the entrance to Harwich Harbour and the chaos and disruption to trade it would cause at Britain’s biggest container port.

Another big problem is often the impact on the public purse.

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Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey is trying to change this and has succeeded in securing a Private Members’ Bill on Wreck Removal Convention – the essence of this new law would be to transfer liability away for the removal of shipwrecks from the taxpayer to shipowners.

“I secured this opportunity to introduce a Bill when I was successful in the Private Members’ Ballot,” said Therese.

“In my first year as an MP, I am on the edge of implementing a new piece of legislation.

“This is something I can genuinely claim that my predecessor John Gummer never achieved, as in all his years of trying, he was never drawn in the ballot.

“I chose this particular Bill because of the importance of clear shipping lanes in Suffolk Coastal.

“Imagine if a cargo boat was wrecked just outside Felixstowe.

“It would be devastating for the port.

“This legislation puts the onus on the shipowner to remove the wreck and if they do not or are slow, it gives powers to the UK government to remove the wreck and charge the shipowner for it.

“This Bill is common sense really but I know it has taken years to negotiate with other nations.”

The Bill will implement into UK law the details of the 2007 Nairobi International Convention on Shipwreck Removal and is considered uncontroversial – which is why it has progressed so smoothly so far.

It has now moved onto the House of Lords and is another step closer to becoming law, which it is hoped will happen with the Queen’s assent by the end of the year.

It sounds an excellent idea – well done to our MP.

? Read Richard Cornwell’s full column every week in FX – the eight-page pull-out all about the Felixstowe area in the Evening Star every Wednesday.

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