§ Mr. Frank Field
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will make a statement on the financial help he will be awarding to Wirral council following the clean-up operation of oil which leaked from a Kuwait Petroleum Company tanker on 12 July;
(2) if, following the major spillage of oil from a Kuwait Petroleum Company tanker, he will set up an inquiry to consider the question of responsibility and compensation.
§ Mr. Trippier
[holding answer 16 July 1990]: On Thursday 12 July, an estimated 30 tonnes or so of Kuwaiti crude oil was spilled into the River Mersey at the 568W Tranmere oil terminal of Shell Ltd. during tank cleaning operations on the United Kingdom registered MV Tonbridge owned by the Kuwaiti Oil Tanker Company. The marine pollution control unit—MPCU—of the Department of Transport were informed immediately and carried out an aerial reconnaissance of the scene. Under the terms of the Mersey oil spill plan, Mersey and Cheshire fire brigades directed operations to contain the spill and Wirral borough council prepared to carry out a beach cleaning operation using equipment made available by MPCU and on the basis of advice provided by an MPCU expert at the scene. Shell UK Ltd. also commissioned oil recovery and containment operations by specialists from the commercial oil spill service centre at Southampton. Other relevant agencies such as the Nature Conservancy Council and National Rivers Authority were informed and advised on remedial action as appropriate.
As a result of this action, some oil has been recovered and the remainder widely dispersed, partly as a result of wind and tides. By the weekend, only small quantities were being deposited on the shoreline mainly in the Rock Ferry area close to the tanker terminal on the south bank of the river. Remaining slicks of oil in the river contained mainly a light sheen which was expected to disperse rapidly. No significant impact on areas of importance to wildlife has been reported. The clean-up operations have been scaled down and I applaud the rapid response of all the parties concerned to minimise the impact of this incident.
Meeting the costs of the clean up operation is a matter for the vessel owners and insurers under the 1969 international convention on civil liability for oil pollution damage. Liability for this accident has been accepted by the Kuwaiti Oil Tanker Company and the clean-up action taken has been approved by the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation. It is for local authorities and other parties seeking to recover costs to submit claims accordingly.