Ship-to-ship oil transfer debate intensifies

Concerns over government plans to make the north Suffolk coast the only place in the UK where ships can transfer oil to each other were the subject of a television debate today.

Shipping minister Mike Penning appeared on BBC television earlier today to explain his plans to ban the practice of ship-to-ship oil transfers around the UK without a licence, making a stretch of coast between Lowestoft and Southwold the only place where the transfers can take place.

There are fears the restrictions would lead to an increase in the number of ships and therefore a higher risk of an oil spill or accident.

Mr Penning, seeking to reassure the public that safety would not be at risk, said: 'This has been going on off Southwold for years and years.

'So those concerns were there when we had no controls over them. Now we have controls we can license each individual transfer.

'I would not put safety at risk – I'm doing the exact opposite, I'm making sure that the safety regimes are in place so that if there is an incident, we can make sure make sure we've got people there to deal with it.'

A campaign to stop ship to ship transfers is currently picking up pace in Southwold. Businesses are being encourged to display anti-transfer posters and take part in the current consultation, which ends on March 10.

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• If you would like to comment write to Mike Penning at the Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR or e-mail Godfrey.Suiter@DFT.gsi.gov.uk.