“We need swift action to stop more seabird strandings” – George

Posted on: 13th May 2013

The MP for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives, Andrew George, is calling on Government Ministers to help speed up the response to the problem of recent seabird strandings which are thought to have been caused by ships discharging polyisobutene (PIBs) in the English Channel.

Mr George has already raised matters with both the Shipping Minister, Stephen Hammond MP, and the Marine Environment Minister, Richard Benyon MP.

In a recent reply from Mr Hammond, Mr George was told that:

“The recent discharge is being considered by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).  The MCA will analyse data that shows the ships that were in the area in the relevant timeframe.  They will also need to look at the detailed cargo manifests to see which of this ships were carrying PIBs, and if need be talk with the ports at which these ships called.  If the MCA can locate any ship that was responsible for an illegal discharge then they will prosecute the owner or operator.  This will send a clear message to the shipping industry that illegal discharge is not acceptable.”

Mr Hammond also confirmed that any reclassification of the chemical – which can be legally discharged under strictly controlled defined conditions set at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – will have to be agreed internationally and “this would take some considerable time”.

Therefore, Mr George has already written to the United Kingdom Major Ports Group (which represents the larger UK Ports) and the British Ports Association to ask that its members introduce an early voluntary code which would require all ships to agree not to discharge PIBs at sea but only to do so when they come into port and have their PIBs taken, under the controlled environment of the port, into the land-based waste management stream.

Mr George said, “Although it is of course important that pressure is brought to bear on the IMO, we know that, as an international organisation, it moves at the pace of the slowest.  I have therefore written to the two organisations which are responsible for the management of major ports around the UK to seek the establishment of a voluntary code which I hope will, in the meantime, begin to address the issue.  Once established, I would hope that those UK ports could seek the agreement of their western European counterpart port authorities to establish an early moratorium on the discharge of PIBs in this way.  They should be handled as all other pollutants as a hazardous waste rather than polluting the seas in the way that they have been.”


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