§ Mr. Higgins
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether it has now been possible to identify the source of the dangerous chemicals washed up on Sussex beaches which were referred to in his answer to the private notice question on 22 February,Official Report, columns 1067–72; whether any action is to be taken by his Department against those responsible; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
With the full co-operation of the shipping agent and local authorities concerned, the marine pollution control unit has been able to determine that the potassium cyanide which came ashore on the Sussex coast on 21 February and succeeding days, had been shipped on the MV Fathulkhair which left Sheerness on 31 January bound for the Persian Gulf. It is probable that other items washed ashore came from the same source.
The vessel encountered heavy weather on her passage down the Channel and whilst off Ushant (in a French area of responsibility) on 2 February lost a quantity of cargo overboard. After putting back into Cherbourg to resecure and survey cargo, the vessel encountered further heavy weather and lost more items overboard between 12 and 14 February against whilst off Ushant.
As the cargo was lost outside United Kingdom territorial waters and the ship is registered in Qatar, my Department is writing to the Qatar authorities to inquire into the incident and if it is found that the chemicals were stowed improperly, to establish who was responsible and to ask what action they intend to take.
In any event marine surveyors of the Department will board the vessel when next it arrives in a United Kingdom port to ensure that if it loads dangerous cargo it will be in accordance with the Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods) Regulations.