Sep 22, 2011

New laws to protect Antarctica

The pristine environment of Antarctica will be further protected with new laws which will ban ships from carrying heavy grade oils through the area.

The possibility of an oil spill in the Antarctic Area is relatively high.

Ships navigating these waters face a number of risks including icebergs, sea ice and uncharted waters.

The changes will reduce the possibility of oil spills which could take years to clean up and have damaging consequences for wildlife.

It will ban the carriage or use of heavy grade oils on ships travelling in the Antarctic Area.

The ban will not apply to vessels engaged in securing the safety of ships or saving life at sea and will mainly impact on tourist ships which use ports in South America.

Heavy grade oils are more environmentally hazardous than other marine oils as they are slow to break down, particularly in cold polar waters.

The bill also provides protection for people or organisations which assist in the cleanup following a spill of fuel oil from a ship.

Fuel oil spills from ships can have extremely high costs. The clean-up costs after the spill of 270 tonnes of fuel oil from the Pacific Adventurer off the coast of Queensland in March 2009 was more than $30 million dollars.

It’s important that people or organisations who respond to an oil spill = are protected from liability if they act reasonably and in good faith.

The changes will also restrict the level of sulphur in marine fuel as high exhaust gases can contribute to the development of acid rain.

Although it one of the harshest environments on the planet, Antarctica is also one of the most vulnerable.

Australia continues to take a leading role to secure protection of this fragile environment including participation in Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings.

The Bill imposes a maximum penalty of $220,000 on both the master and owner of a ship in the event of a breach this ban.