26 April 2013
The Planning and Environment Minister has expressed his support for the concerns of Channel Island environmental groups which want action to help prevent future discharges of the chemical polyisobutene (PIB).
Latest reports from the UK suggest that around 20 species of seabird have been contaminated by the chemical in recent weeks and the RSPB is calling for PIB, used in ship's engines, to be reclassified.
At the moment PIB can be lawfully released into the sea under certain conditions. If this were outlawed, ships would need to dispose of the chemical in suitable port facilities, which are not universally available. Providing such facilities would be a considerable investment for large ports.
Minister backs action
In Jersey, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) sets the rules for what can be discharged at sea and this is administered by the Economic Development Minister as part of his general responsibility for shipping matters.
Environment Minister, Deputy Rob Duhamel, said “I would support action to promote the reduction of any harmful chemical in the marine environment. My department has contacted the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which is trying to determine the source of this latest incident. We will also work with the Economic Development Department to determine the UK government position on this issue.”
No local discharges have been noted and Jersey’s water pollution law is able to control and regulate discharges within Jersey's 12 mile marine limit. The law is sufficiently robust to consider effects of this material being discharged into the sea, despite its non-toxicity.
Deputy Duhamel added “We have not had reports of increased seabird deaths around our shores, but we will be asking Transport and Technical Services beach cleaners to advise if this changes.”
“Department of the Environment Marine Resources officers have discussed this issue with EDD officers, representatives from the MCA and colleagues in Guernsey to establish their position on this matter.”
Because the UK has ratified the MARPOL Convention on Jersey’s behalf, the Island can raise the issue of PIB through the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
If the scientific evidence were considered strong enough, the issue could be taken to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) through the UK’s representative on that body.