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$400.00 fine not enough for oil spill costs: PANG


$400.00 fine not enough for oil spill costs: PANG

Legislation must be strengthened to ensure multinationals like Shell and Mobil Oil do not get away scot-free if they cause environmental damage to the country, says the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG).

PANG was reacting to revelations in the Fiji media on the levels of oil spill in the Suva wharf area.

PANG Co-ordinator Stanley Simpson said it was alarming that the maximum penalty Mobil and Shell would be handed if they were the source of the oil spill in the Suva harbour would be $F400.00 ($US 200.00), under the 1990 Ports Authority of Fiji Ports Regulations.

"The current oil spill in the Suva Harbour highlights the urgent need for very strong measures to be put in place to avoid an oil spill, accident or an environmental catastrophe affecting the country," Simpson said. "There is also no legislation in place that will force the oil companies to foot the bill of any bigger environmental, social or economic damage caused by an oil spill."

"A large oil spill in the Harbour would essentially be holocaust for our environment and our economic activity. Even a big country like Spain was devastated with the impact of an oil spill."

"The situation in Spain serves as warning to Fiji and other Pacific countries: have we put in place measures to avoid or respond to such accidents? If there was a major oil spill in the Suva harbour how would we respond? Who will clean-up? Who will pay for the costs? Has an assessment been made on what impact an oil spill would have on the environment, let alone human well-being and economic activity?" Simpson asked.

"In fact, we cannot afford to let it happen, full stop?"

Simpson said Fiji and other Pacific countries must also look at measures currently being planned by European Union countries to try to avoid "floating rubbish tin" ships, and other environmental hazards.

"It may cost us more, but we are talking here about environment, social and even economic security, and the impact of an oil spill cannot be exaggerated," Simpson said.

"We need to review standards of ships coming into the country and the type of cargo they bring, as well as stringent standards and policies that companies must adhere to when performing high-risk environmental activity."

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