Merchant shipping bill goes before Lords

Victims of oil pollution from tankers could receive extra compensation if a bill currently being examined by the House of Lords gets passed.

If passed into law, the Merchant Shipping (Pollution) Bill will make an additional £440 million available for compensation in the event of a major oil spill. This is designed to prevent any financial hardship which might result if the payment of claims is delayed or if the current amount available for compensation (£162 million) is insufficient.

It would also allow the UK to join in any future changes to the international regime governing compensation for oil pollution without awaiting primary legislation. This means the UK could participate from the outset in any future regime and would ensure the best financial protection as quickly as possible for the UK’s coastal interests.

Shipping Minister Dr Ladyman said: “This bill will ensure that the UK has in place the best possible arrangements for ensuring the future financial protection of the fishing and tourism communities, who have been victims of oil pollution in the past.”

In addition the Bill would permit the regulation of atmospheric emissions from ships, particularly sulphur, to try and reduce such pollutants near busy shipping lanes. Shipping is now the biggest source of sulphur emissions, a major cause of acid rain, in the EU.

The Bill came before the Lords one week after new international rules governing the sulphur content of fuel in ships became law. The Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships are contained in Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention and set a 4.5% by mass limit on the sulphur content of fuel oil worldwide, while in Sulphur emission control areas the limit must not exceed 1.5%.

By David Hopkins

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