Jul 5, 2009

Oil spill ship must pay all clean up costs

Oil spill ship must pay all clean up costs

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

July 5 2009

Premier Anna Bligh and the Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese will demand the owners of the Moreton Bay oil spill ship Pacific Adventurer pay the full costs of the environmental disaster.

Hong Kong company Swire Shipping’s lawyers wrote to the Premier this week refusing to cover all the costs associated with the clean up effort.

Ms Bligh has attacked the company for trying to shirk its responsibilities despite making repeated public assurances that they would do the right thing in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

“This ship spilt 270 tonnes of heavy fuel oil onto the pristine beaches of Moreton Island, Bribie Island and the Sunshine Coast,” she said.

“The State Government’s clean up involved 2500 people and allowed beaches to reopen within just nine weeks of the disaster.

“But that clean up comes at a cost – currently estimated at $34 million – and we have always said the polluter must pay. Taxpayers should not be left with the bill because this company is trying to avoid paying the full costs of the cleanup.

“International maritime conventions refer to a cap on clean up payments of US$17 million but Swire’s has repeatedly accepted full responsibility and said they would cover the full cost.”

In a statement reported on 13 March, the company said: “We will be liable for all of the clean-up costs and all of the costs of the incident, which we will then seek to recover from our insurers.”

Again on 1 April, in reference to the cap, they said: “this is not the limit of Swire Shipping’s insurance cover.”

“But this week, the company back flipped, saying they will ‘have regard to the limitation of liability available to them at law’,” said the Premier.

“The people of Queensland were not responsible for what happened and the people of Queensland will not be picking up this bill.”

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the company should do the right thing.

“We expect Swire to cover the full cost of cleaning up the pollution and the environmental damage caused by one their ships,” said Minister Albanese.

“There is an Australian precedent for a ship owner meeting cleanup costs in excess of their legal liability.

“In 1995 when the BHP chartered bulk carrier, Iron Baron, grounded on Hebe Reef off the coast of northern Tasmania spilling 300 tonnes of bunker oil, the company covered the full cost of the cleanup which was in excess of its legal liability.

“Their own website says ‘protection of the environment is an integral part of Swire Shipping’s business philosophy’.

“Now it’s their chance to put their money where their mouth is and pay the full costs of this terrible spill. Their reputation as a good corporate citizen is on the line.”

Minister Albanese said Swire has a responsibility to cover all the costs associated with this disaster.