contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width
click to zoom in click to zoom in  
contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width

treatment have taken longer and are still not fully recovered. Thus, the layer of oil that might have disappeared naturally within a year was exchanged for slippery thickets of one or two species of seaweed of much greater persistence. In awareness of the dangers of dispersants to marine life, the French banned dispersant treatment ashore and limited their application only to oily seas no less than 50 metres in depth during the Amoco Cadiz alert. Were it not for the fact that Britain took the lead in developing dispersants and the government have stockpiled substantive quantities throughout the country as their first line of defence against any emergency, chemical counter-measures might be banned altogether, for their effectiveness in actual practice have been repeatedly called into question.

Deliberate Discharges

Accidents apart, we are faced with the problems posed by deliberate discharges of oil and chemical wastes from tankers deballasting and cleaning at sea. It is generally agreed that over 10,000 tons of hazardous chemicals are dumped at sea in this manner, and a United Nations panel of scientists drew up a list of some 200 substances which have varying degrees of effects on the environment according to bio-accumulation, damage to living resources, hazard to human health and the reduction of amenities. It is in the North Sea where the major concern now lies, for the area lies at the heart of the world petrochemical trade and correspondingly receives the major share of noxious liquid residues from chemical tankers. The twenty year monitoring programme of the North Sea has indicated that plankton, the basic staple of life at sea, show definite signs of decline and progressively delayed seasonal reproduction.

Oil pollution by tankers ranges from counts of one million to over five million tons per year, which makes the costs of accidental pollution pale in comparison. However, the effects of intentional pollution are not as clearly defined in peoples' minds as the consequences of spectacular accidents, mainly because the problem manifests itself in less dramatic forms and generally takes place without any publicity or identifiable source.

An Avoidable Problem

Seaside visitors who have not witnessed the consequences of oil pollution may count themselves lucky. Most of us, say officials, now accept oil pollution as a holiday probability, like bad weather, sunburn or overcrowding. Tary lumps and fresh slicks increasingly have recurred in locations close to shipping or other spots where winds, tides and currents sweep the pollution ashore. Apart from the nuisance and the expense in beach cleansing measures suffered by the public, the toll of chronic pollution upon seabirds must be counted in tens of thousands per year.

Yet the problem is largely avoidable. Once a tanker has discharged its cargo, dregs remaining in the tanks and lines could be cleaned and the contaminated washings transferred to port reception facilities for decanting and use. Port conservation of tanker wastes was an 312

accomplished practice in some refineries during the 1920s and by Allied shipping during the Second World War, but since then the trend has favoured faster tanker turn-around in harbour and tank-washing at sea.

That it is still quite possible for the industry to clean ships in ports today may be seen in the latest international treaty which governments have accepted in principle but have not yet implemented. The 1973 Marine Pollution Convention bans waste-discharge at sea by ships travelling within designated special areas like the Baltic and the Mediterranean, and from chemical tankers laden with the dregs of highly toxic chemicals. Given other circumstances, tankers would have to select one of two alternatives: to discharge their wastes at sea under well-defined conditions or, again, to transfer wastes into port reception facilities. Other propositions in the 1973 Convention and its 1978 Protocol promise to reduce tne potential wastewater problems of tankers of certain tonnages by some 25 - 50 per cent when the requirements for purposebuilt or specially-designated ballast tanks are implemented.

Why No Action?

In all, the great riddle that defies answer is why these measures have not been implemented despite mounting public concern throughout the world over the increasing difficulties which nations are experiencing in trying to cope with ever-larger and ever-more-frequent oil spillages at sea. Governments can be criticized for delaying their ratification of agreements which have been discussed fully and settled in international conferences. Individual shipmasters also receive blame, notwithstanding the fact that they often serve as convenient scapegoats in court proceedings and boards of inquiry. Unwary consumers and the public in general should not escape censure, either, since it is clear that the sooner we import less oil, the sooner we shall reduce the pollution problem.

Industry must take Blame

The preponderant responsibility for marine oil pollution today, however, must fall on the oil industry itself, for it is the oil majors who control the greater part of the shipping and reception operations that lead to deliberate oil spills. All that governments can do is to pass laws and to monitor the more conspicuous violations, but it is the industry which must implement the regulations and it is due to their directives (or lack of them, as the case may be) that shipmasters have little option other than to wash tanks at sea. For their part, however, bulk liquid shippers and receivers, mainly the oil companies themselves, have shown how they are capable of mounting diversionary tactics and deceptive ploys which draw attention away from their malpractices and bad husbandry.

Deceptive Argument

One outstanding example is the industry's sponsorship of policies which have effectively replaced international legislation with "new" standards that might almost have been designed to guarantee the continued pollution of our oceans and our shores. The rules to Newsletter $10 for 6 issues

the CELA newsletter



Trees Act Amendments Receive Third Reading; CEL A Changes



Action Urged on Acid Rain and Pollution from Inco and Ontario

Pulp and Paper Companies


The Ontario Environmental Assessment Board Recommends

How Expansion is to Occur at Elliot Lake


Maple Dump Update


North York Votes to Continue 2,4-D Spray Program


Canada/Ontario Conservation and Renewable Energy Agree­



B.C . Law Reform Group Supports Broader Standing


Tnto the Ground, the Chemicals Go : Where They End Up, No One Knows... " 55

E.A.S . and E.l. A R.P .

Environmental Briefs

Book Review

Books Received





The environment has rights too. And there are laws to protect those rights. The CELA NEWSLETTER talks about those laws —and laws under consideration —and highlights their weaknesses and strengths. Stay up to date on the latest critical environmental issues through the CELA NEWSLETTER, and its book reviews, informed comment, and insightful articles.

La w Reports $30 for 6 issues-— $15 for students


There is plenty of heat in public debate on environmental issues but the light comes from court and regulatory agency decisions. THE CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW REPORTS get the vital, precedent-setting decisions to you quickly, along with commentaries on recent statutes. Keep informed along with the many corporations, government agencies, law schools and libraries that already subscribe to the LAW REPORTS.

Orde r For m

Subscription Department Canadian Environmental Law Research Foundation suite 303, one Spadina Crescent, Toronto, Ontario M5S 9Z9

Please send me: • the LAW REPORTS at $30/year— $15 for students • • the NEWSLETTER at $10/year • Payment enclosed • Bill me Please make all cheques payable to: Canadian Environmental Law Research Foundation


Address .

City &, Province

Apt. No..

Postal Code

The Ecologist Vol 9 No 10 Dec 1979