Southwold: ‘Welcome’ drop in numbers using transfer zone

IT was an issue that prompted angry protests and fierce political debate – but concerns that a new official zone for ship-to-ship oil transfers off the coast off Southwold could attract dozens of extra tankers to the area appear to have so far proved unfounded.

Earlier this year, after a long-running debate, Sole Bay became the only place in British territorial waters, outside harbour waters, where oil tanker transfers are permitted to take place.

The decision to create the exclusive zone prompted fears it would become a “beacon” for tankers as they congregated off the coast to transfer millions of barrels of oil.

Anti-tanker campaigners expressed concerns over the potential impact of oil spills and voiced fears that the sight of dozens of tankers on the horizon could affect Waveney’s �250million tourist industry. John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society which campaigned against the tanker transfer zone, said there had actually been a large decrease in the number of vessels gathering in Sole Bay.

Mr Perkins said: “We monitor shipping movements every day and have noticed a big reduction in the number of tankers offshore.

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“This time last year there were lines of tankers on the horizon. Now there are just a handful – usually about three or four.

“This may be partly due to the campaign waged by local residents against the tankers, but it may also be due to the world recession and a fall in the demand for oil.

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“Either way, the reduction is welcome although we would still ideally like to see tankers moved out of the area altogether.”

The exclusive tanker transfer zone was approved by the Government in May.

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