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EDS asks for investigation of oil tanker threat

Media Statement Tuesday 27 January 2004

EDS asks Secretary for the Environment to investigate oil tanker threat

The Environmental Defence Society has called for an urgent review of the rules governing oil tanker visits to New Zealand. This follows the release today of the report into the grounding of the Capella Voyager off Marsden Point last year. The Capella Voyager hit the bottom and ruptured its hull. Later in the year the Eastern Honor was involved in a similar incident, also at Marsden Point.

"Two groundings in one year is real a wake-up call. Oil tankers pose huge risks of massive oil spills and consequent devastation of our coastal marine environment," said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor.

"The Capella Voyager was a double-hulled tanker with 107,800 tonnes of light crude oil on board. It breached its hull and if it had been single hulled, there could have been a massive pollution incident devastating hundreds of miles of coastline. It could have been the worst pollution incident in our history - New Zealand's equivalent of Exxon Valdez.

"A rupture of one of these single-hulled tankers would overwhelm all available containment and dispersal technologies. Pollution would enter the Whangarei Harbour and devastate the coastline from Tutukaka to the Hen and Chickens Marine Reserve and well down Bream Bay towards the popular mid-North beaches. Wildlife would be severely impacted. There would be a huge clean-up challenge.

"Under current international conventions, single-hulled tankers are still allowed to berth at Marsden Point. Most of these vessels were built in the 1970s and 1980s and are either in the process of being banned or are being phased out in other countries. Some countries are looking at faster phase-out than others. Those vessels do not provide the level of security required in the 21st century.

"So EDS is asking the Secretary for the Environment, Barry Carbon, to urgently investigate whether single-hulled oil tankers should continue to be allowed to visit to New Zealand.

"A large-scale oil pollution incident is probably the worst event for our environment that one can think of. The Ministry for Environment should evaluate the risks and consequences.

"The Maritime Safety Authority Report is a competent and thorough examination of the detailed causes of the grounding. We welcome the procedural improvements suggested in it.

"But we need to go further. The report does not address the adequacy of the overall domestic legislative and regulatory framework. That needs urgent review and we hope that Mr Carbon will give it immediate attention," Mr Taylor concluded.


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