Mike Penning, Shipping Minister
United Kingdom

Legislation is being prepared which will mean from April 2011 the only place in the UK that the practice of ship to ship oil transfer (STS) will be allowed to take place is on the North Suffolk Coast in Sole Bay.

Crude oil is transferred from smaller vessels to larger tankers rather than heading into port. The larger tankers are not able to navigate the waters of the Baltic Sea so the smaller boats are used. Many of the tankers are Russian, with single skin hulls. Hellenic Shipping News estimates that a hundred ships could become involved in operations in Sole Bay in the future.

A total ban on STS transfers was due to come into force in October 2010, Suffolk Coastal MP at the time, John Gummer was instrumental in getting this legislation through in the final days of parliament. Upon taking up office in May, the new shipping minister immediately announced a delay to the ban saying that it had been rushed through and was too costly to implement. He has been supported in this action by current Suffolk Coastal MP, Therese Coffey and Lowestoft MP Peter Aldous.

Since 2009, the number of places around the coast of the UK where STS transfers are permitted has been reduced to one only – Sole Bay. For the other previously-designated locations, Lyme Bay and the Firth of Forth, formal assessments have been carried out and consultations have taken place, and as a result STS transfers have been banned.

It is argued the risks of an oil spill during the transfer process are small. A figure often quoted by supporters of the process is that in the last 2 years only 5 litres has been spilt during the transfer of oil. This risk assessment however, based on the short period of two years, is based on a failure of the process and not on a collision or grounding which could easily result in the loss of 15,000 tonnes from one of the mother ships

Tourism sustains over 5,000 jobs in Waveney. An oil spill here would seriously jeopardize the majority of those jobs and devastate the economy as well as the environment. Even without a spill it is likely there will be a negative impact on tourism in having so many oil tankers moored off our beaches.

Supporters of the legislation argue that it is safer to bring the STS within the 12 miles limit where they can take place under license with close supervision. However it appears that MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships) regulations will apply equally on each side of the 12 mile limit.

The Department for Transport have extended the consultation period and we now have until March 10th to try to stop the legislation. We urge Therese Coffee to "pray against" (parliamentary term for voting against the procedure going forward) the order when it is tabled. This petition will go to Shipping Minister Mike Penning pressing him to reconsider.

We the undersigned call for the practice of ship to ship oil transfers to be banned in Sole Bay, within the 12 mile limit.

We see the practice as a threat to the local economy and environment.

The Stop Ship to Ship Oil Transfers in Sole Bay petition to Mike Penning, Shipping Minister was written by Sarah Green and is in the category Environment at GoPetition.