Oil Pollution Fears Raised as Supertankers Anchor Off Southwold

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Oil pollution concerns have been raised by the authorities after a cluster of supertankers were seen anchored off the Suffolk coast.

What happened?

Close to fifteen crude oil tankers have been anchored 10 and 15 miles off the coast at Southwold, an area designated by Government as a zone for ship-to-ship transfers.

The mayor has requested the authorities and ministers to reconsider the policy as people are increasingly concerned about oil pollution.

Oil noticed on the waters:

Prof Michael Rowan-Robinson, Southwold and Reydon Society president, said: “We have been monitoring and assessing the situation, and have become increasingly concerned. It’s very noticeable. You can see the lights of those closer to shore at night, and there are more over the horizon. The town council wrote to the minister after the previous election, asking the government to reconsider its policy, because it’s a threat hanging over the coast. They should not be there”.

He further added, “What’s not clear is whether or not ship-to-ship oil transfers are taking place – but even parking there alone is not sustainable for the heritage coast”.

Campaign launched:

The protesters waged a campaign to prevent the area of North Sea being designated for ship-to-shore transfers. The last Labour government drafted regulations banning offshore transfers so that ships used ports but the coalition Government sanctioned the zone off Southwold in 2012.

Shipping minister Mike Penning said it was a suitable area for carrying out ship-to-ship transfers based on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s and the industry’s experience of the successful use of these waters for transfer operations over a number of years without pollution of the seas and coasts.

Immediately after the new zone was agreed there was a noticeable drop in the number of tankers.

Reason unknown:

The reason for the current cluster is not known but oil prices are low and sometimes oil is stored at sea to wait for changes in prices on the world market.

Southwold Town Council has written to Government asking for the oil transfer site to be reconsidered and says “pollution is already occurring” .

The MCA, which is monitoring ship-to-ship transfer operations closely to ensure they meet safety standards, was not available to comment.

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Source: East Anglian Daily Times

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