Australia hikes taxes to pay for pollution

Shipping companies using Australian waters will be forced to pay extra maritime taxes to help pay for the clean-up of a major pollution incident.

Last March, the Pacific Adventurer spilled huge quantities of oil and fertiliser off the Queensland coast, resulting in one of the worst environmental disasters in Australian history.

While the company that owned the vessel, Swire Shipping, agreed to pay AU$25m towards the clean-up operation, the total cost is likely to be considerably higher, with current estimates at around AU$31m.

This week the Australian government announced it would increase its Sea Pollution Levy by about 25%, up 3 cents to 14.25 cents per tonne.

“Taxpayers should not have to bear the additional costs of the clean up,” said a government statement.

“In accordance with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, we are increasing the Protection of the Sea Levy by a small amount until the clean-up costs have been met.

“The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which coordinates oil spill responses, will reimburse the Queensland Government for the shortfall.

“A court administered limitation fund has already been established and this will provide compensation for the valid private claims for compensation, as well as some of the clean-up costs.

We have taken this step because the current liability limit set out in the International Maritime Organisation’s 1996 Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims is too low to cover the actual costs of the clean- up.”

The Protection of the Sea Levy is charged against ships based on the ‘potential polluter pays’ principle and applies to vessels at least 24 metres long, with 10 tonnes or more oil as fuel or cargo.

The levy increase is expected to be in place from 1 April 2010.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie