Punish sea polluters - Parliament

2013-08-14 20:05
Kiani Satu (NSRI)

Kiani Satu (NSRI)

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Oil spill cleanup near Knysna continues

2013-08-12 10:43

Cleanup operations are continuing after a cargo ship started leaking oil near Knsyna. WATCH

Johannesburg - A parliamentary committee has urged harsher penalties for those polluting the sea.

This was necessary to protect fish resources along the coast, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries portfolio committee chairman Lulu Johnson said on Wednesday.

The call came after oil started leaking from the cargo ship Kiani Satu, which ran aground off Buffels Bay near Knysna last week.

"We have observed several similar incidents around the shores of South Africa in which the vessels... are grounded or capsized with some not only leaving the government authorities with a burden to rescue them and cleaning their damage, but posing serious health risks for fishery living resources," he said in a statement.

Johnson said in most cases the polluters went unpunished.

Although damage had been done to the environment, it was under control because of the swift response by sea rescue authorities.

The ship could have posed a more serious hazard to marine life, Johnson said.

The 168m bulk carrier ran aground at dawn on Thursday off Buffels Bay, forcing the captain and its 19-member crew to abandon ship.

It had developed mechanical problems in heavy seas while carrying 330 tons of fuel oil and 15 000 tons of rice.

Sitting in dry dock

The Democratic Alliance called on Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to explain why six environmental protection vessels could not be used to clean up the oil spill.

"These are the only vessels in South Africa with a mechanism to prevent oil from drifting further into ocean during an oil spill," spokesperson Pieter van Dalen said in a statement.

"These six vessels are currently sitting in dry dock in Cape Town Harbour and Simon’s Town Naval Base due to a failure by the fisheries department to properly manage them.

"Minister Joemat-Pettersson must now break her silence and explain, how, in absence of the environmental protection vessels, she will prevent an ecological disaster."

Joemat-Petterson's spokesperson Palesa Mokomele said she could not yet comment on the matter.

Van Dalen claimed he was reliably informed that 70 tons of that oil had already leaked into the ocean.

Earlier, the SA Maritime Safety Authority said marine salvors were planning to remove oil from the leaking ship by air.

"[They are] drilling into tanks to take the oil out. It has not been heated for a week now, so we are going to try to put the oil into plastic tanks and fly it off the ship," said Samsa spokesperson Captain Nigel Campbell.

Read more on:    samsa  |  tina joemat-pettersson  |  environment  |  marine life

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