Ports gain environment protection

A SHIPPING boss has welcomed moves by Government officials to further protect the environment and wildlife surrounding two of the region's busiest ports.

A SHIPPING boss has welcomed moves by Government officials to further protect the environment and wildlife surrounding two of the region's busiest ports.

Felixstowe and Harwich were yesterday designated as Marine Environmental High Risk Areas (MEHRA) by the Department for Transport to help reduce the risk of pollution.

The status means that ships' masters that use the waterways approaching the ports will have to take extra care so as not to damage the sensitivity of the area.

The intention is to give information to crews that will help in route planning and although the introduction of protective measures is not statutory it is suggested that ships try to stay away from the designated areas.

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However in places such as Felixstowe and Harwich where this is impossible because they are busy ports it is advised that an even greater degree of care is taken than usual.

In other cases, where there is sensitive marine wildlife, it may be necessary for ships to stay further away from the coast and if this happens there will be specific routeing measures in place directing passing traffic further offshore.

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Paul Davey, corporate affairs manager at the Port of Felixstowe, said they were pleased with the introduction of the status and hoped it would go someway to safeguarding the environmental future of the area.

He said: “We welcome this move by the Secretary of State for transport. There is already extensive monitoring of ships approaching Felixstowe and we hope the measures will further reduce the risk of pollution.”

However Jenni Meredith, one of the spokeswomen for Residents Against Port Expansion (RAPE) in Harwich, said the announcement did not do any more than offer advice.

“They are saying to be 'more careful than usual', but we are not usually very careful at all,” she said. “As far as Bathside Bay is concerned this is just another piece of paperwork which will not have any practical effect. It seems as if they are doing their best when in fact all they are really doing is protecting commercial interests.”

Felixstowe and Harwich were selected for MEHRA status following Government recommendations in a report looking into the Braer tanker disaster that happened off the Shetland Islands in January 1993.

A total of 32 locations were selected throughout the country after taking into account shipping risk, environmental sensitivity and other environmental protection measures already in place.

Announcing the MEHRAs in a written statement to Parliament, transport secretary Alistair Darling said: “MEHRAs will be an essential aid to passage planning since their primary purpose is to inform ships' masters of areas where they need to exercise even more caution than usual.”

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