New fears raised over oil tanker transfers in Lowestoft and Southwold
NEW concerns have been raised over the safety of ship-to-ship transfers off the north Suffolk coast following an operation to remove 54,000 tonnes of oil from a damaged tanker.
The transfer of oil from the stricken Genmar Companion, which had run into trouble off the Northern Irish coast, was completed on Saturday night.
The ship had been travelling from Rotterdam to New York when crew noticed a crack in the deck. The ship was taken to Belfast Lough for a transfer to take place, which began on Friday.
Suffolk campaigners who object to Government legislation which is set to limit all UK off-shore transfers to waters off the Suffolk coast near Southwold – to be introduced in April – say the episode raises question marks about the safety of the oil tanker industry and the sea-worthiness of the ships.
John Perkins is secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, which has lobbied against the Department for Transport plans that will see the Sole Bay area designated as the only spot for transfers in UK waters.
He said the situation with the Genmar Companion identified potential hazards that could be posed to the Suffolk coast.
'It seems to have been managed without a problem,' he said.
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'But having looked at the details of this, it obviously highlights the risk and just shows the potential risk of transferring large quantities of oil by sea.
'Because the crack was noticed well off shore and there was no leak, there was plenty of time to put an operation in place.
'Our concern is always that in Sole Bay these ships are very close to the shore.'
He added: 'These things are potentially more dangerous than modern boats. It highlights the risk and it is a concern.'
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey also raised questions about the standard of some of the vessels used in the transfers.
She said: 'It is fair to say people are concerned about the seaworthiness of the oil tankers. The boats going through our international waters – are they the appropriate standard and are they going to just break up?'
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said the situation in Belfast with the Genmar Companion was a 'one-off problem because of the ship' and the change in legislation, which would come into place on April 1, was unaffected.
She said: 'There is no plan to change our plans for ship-to-ship [transfers].'