HC Deb 06 March 1981 vol 1000 c212W
Mr. John Garrett

asked the Secretary of State for Trade (1) whether his Department has taken action in the last three weeks to disperse the oil slick issuing from the wreck of the German ferry"Ems", off the Norfolk coast;

(2) what representations he has received from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on the loss of bird life as a result of the oil slick resulting from the sinking of the German ferry"Ems" off the Norfolk coast.

Mr. Eyre

The"Ems" sank in the early hours of 30 January. An oil slick of seven miles by one mile was sprayed that day by four vessels hired by my Department, the first of which was on the scene at first light. The slick dispersed. The following day there was a further very small slick which was dispersed within half an hour by one vessel which had remained on the scene.

On 9 February, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reported sightings of oil and also oiled birds coming ashore on the Norfolk coast, and on the following day a helicopter reported oil in the vicinity of the wreck. On 11 February, the Department hired an aircraft equipped with aerial spraying facilities to search the area. Only very slight traces of oil were found and these were dispersing naturally and rapidly. A similar flight on the following day found no oil.

Following further reports of oil pollution, from the RSPB amongst others, a further flight on 27 February found some light oil near the wreck's position and this was successfully sprayed with dispersant.

A flight on 4 March found again small patches of oil in the general vicinity of the wreck but this was dispersing naturally. No oiled seabirds were seen in that area.

A small number of samples of oil from oiled birds and beaches have so far been analysed by the laboratory of the Government Chemist. The analysis revealed the oil to be medium or heavy fuel oil, a type not carried by the"Ems". My Department is also co-operating with the RSPB and local interests to facilitate prompt analysis of further samples. The cost to the Department of these counter pollution operations has been £31,000.