September 22, 1999

LONDON - Oil tankers get a bad press but shipping causes only a small amount of marine pollution, maritime experts said yesterday at a London conference.

"Shipping is less polluting than most other transport modes. It is responsible for only some 12 percent of marine pollution," Mats Lindau, quality manager of marine insurer the Swedish Club said.

"Land sources from polluted rivers account for the lion's share," he said at the Clean Seas conference, but public perceptions remained negative towards shipping.

Tim Wilkins, a marine biologist at tanker owners organisation Intertanko, said 62 percent of oil pollution at sea came from industrial waste.

Some three percent resulted from tanker accidents while another seven percent arose from loading and other operations.

According to U.S. CoastGuard figures engine oil spills and oil waste discharges from other vessels massively outstripped cargo losses from tankers, Wilkins said.

It was the operational losses that tanker owners were seeking to reduce through better application of current marine pollution rules, he said.

One of the main ways of reducing them would be through better provision of reception facilities at ports for oil wastes and ballast water, Wilkins said.

International regulations call for ports to provide facilities, but shipping sources say they are still lacking.

Pointing to chemical waste as a major problem, Roger Lankester of Friends of the Earth, said there were only two oil/chemical reception sites in Britain.

Wilkins said tanker owners had largely accepted their liabilities but that pressure needed to be put on port operators through governments and the International Maritime Organisation to ensure they fulfilled their responsibilities.

Lindau said the industry could also do more by increasingly adopting environmental management codes, such as certification under international standard ISO14001.

"Many charterers, particularly the oil and chemicals majors, can be expected to pay increasing attention to ISO14001 in the years ahead," he said.

Critics had pointed out that the international standard did not actually require progressive improvements in environmental performance, only in the management of standards.

But Lindau said that process would lead to direct improvements for the environment.

Lankester also called for greater attention to be paid to ship designs to reduce waste pollution problems, and for charter clauses allowing ships' masters more power to take account of adverse conditions.

"There is a need to look at charter parties to allow sufficient leeway for captains to run ships safely," he said.

Related Links
  • Planetark-- Tankers' bad press on oil spills said undeserved - UK
  • US Coast Guard-- The United States Coast Guard Website
  • -- Intertanko Cargo
  • International Maritime-- International Maritime Organization's Homepage

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