Approach to North Sea oil leaks seriously inadequate

4 March 2013

Approach to North Sea oil leaks seriously inadequate

A new approach is needed to oil dumping in the North Sea, according to SP Member of Parliament Henk van Gerven. Van Gerven was responding to a report from the investigative bureau of the police responsible for researching environmental crime. The consequences for the environment are enormous and the coast guard service is unable to monitor the problem adequately. ‘The coast guard needs to step up a gear,’ says Van Gerven, ‘but what’s most important is that we tackle the dumping. That begins in the docks.’

henk van gervenA good half million litres of oil are dumped into the North Sea each year, the researchers say. Only one in ten oil slicks can be traced back to the ship from which it was dumped. The investigators suggest that the chance of arrest would be increased by more monitoring and the use of modern techniques of detection. ‘The malicious shipping companies have free rein,’ says Van Gerven. 'The coast guard is now in the air only 15% of the time and then only during the day. With new techniques for night vision and special buoys which can be thrown from helicopters to mark the oil slicks, a great deal more could be done at night.’

The SP has for years demanded that all waste from ships in dock should be discharged. Every port is already fitted with a reception facility where oil and chemical waste from ships is processed. If a ship can dispose of its waste at cost price there then it has no longer any excuse for dumping. ‘Successive governments haven’t wanted to know,’ says Van Gerven. ‘That’s stupid because if the price is included in the fee for using the dock, there’s no longer any motivation to dump illegally. In this way we’d be preventing irreparable environmental damage.’

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