HL Deb 19 December 1928 vol 72 cc727-8WA

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether his attention has been drawn to the continued destruction, in considerable numbers, of sea fowl by the discharge of refuse oil from vessels in ports and at sea; whether any international agreement is now in force for the prevention or mitigation of this practice: and, if so, to what nations does it apply; what is the nature and scope of the agreement, if any; how far are British vessels affected by the terms of such agreement; whether the use of "separators," or other methods for dealing with refuse oil, has been found effective in reducing the mortality amongst sea fowl arising from this nuisance; and, in any event, will His Majesty's Government use their best endeavours to persuade all shipowners to make use of the same.


Some complaints regarding the destruction of sea fowl by the discharge of oil have been received since the issue of the White Paper (No. 51ߝ157) in May, 1927, but they do not suggest that this form of destruction is increasing. If the noble Viscount has any definite information on the subject, the Board of Trade will be happy to consider it. There is no international agreement in force, but a form of Convention, the principal object of which is to provide for the prohibition of the discharge of oily water within zones of, generally, fifty miles' width from the coasts, was settled at Washington in June, 1926, and the United States Government are endeavouring to secure the signatures of all the Maritime Powers. The Conference considered two main proposals—namely, the compulsory fitting of separators on oil-carrying and oil-burning ships, and the establishment of zones in which no oil or oily water should be discharged. It was found impossible to secure international agreement to the compulsory fitting of separators, and the Conference decided to recommend the establishment of a system of zones. After the Conference British shipowners and those of some foreign nations voluntarily agreed to instruct the masters of their ships not to discharge oil or oily water within fifty miles of the coasts. In addition, a number of British shipowners have voluntarily fitted separators on their vessels. This voluntary action on the part of British and foreign ship-owners has doubtless been responsible for the decrease in the number of complaints received, but the Board of Trade have no information as to its effect in reducing the mortality among sea-birds. As there is no prospect at present of the use of separators being made compulsory by international agreement, His Majesty's Government doubt whether any useful purpose would be served by attempting to persuade British ship-owners to fit them.

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