Local rows over STS on the beautiful Suffolk coast
The Suffolk coastal towns of Lowestoft and Southwold are in disagreement over the potential impact of ship to ship transfers - safety or economy first?
The tightly-regulated practice of ship to ship transfers, or STS, is creating a bit of a stir on the east coast of the UK.
In the usually-harmonious coastal towns of Lowestoft and Southwold, the former being a working port and a little down-at-heel and the latter often referred to as ‘Chelsea-on-sea’ because of its large number of wealthy second-home owners in 4x4s, people are up in arms about how STS is affecting their home towns.
Ship to ship transfers is moving of cargo from one ship to another, when the ships are at sea and either stationary or underway. The controversy about STS is often related to the safety of the cargo, which is typically crude oil or liquefied gas. There are terribly strict rules and regulations for STS, but this is where much of the disagreement lies in these Suffolk seaside towns.
The safety aspect of STS is widely considered to be pretty tight, although critics of the practice say this is largely down to luck. Southwold residents have been vocal about the potential impact on valuable tourist revenue if an accident occurred, which would likely spill thousands of tonnes of crude oil into what is beautiful part of the Suffolk coastline, popular with filmmakers as well as wealthy tourists and locals. One such voice is MP for Southwold, John Gummer, who is pushing for the end of STS in the area, especially where it is close to areas of outstanding beauty and wildlife.
The more robust port town of Lowestoft is far more practical about the issue, with local shipping company owners stating that the rules and regulations keep a tight reign on safety. One such businessman is James Laird, who has hit back at John Gummer MP, stating that, especially in times of global recession, businesses need to be able to operate as effectively as possible, as long as they are within the boundaries of industry regulations.
The issue looks set to trundle on as John Gummer MP is pushing the fact that Southwold seems to have become a national ‘dumping ground’ for ships waiting for STS transfers, whereas Lowestoft marine bosses are highlighting how, as one of the UK’s most deprived areas with high levels of unemployment, any more pressure on the local shipping industry could bring the town to its knees.