31 Oct 2011

Non-persistent oils major threat to Pacific says consultant

2:20 pm on 31 October 2011

An environmental consultant says spills of non-persistent oils such as kerosene and diesel in the Pacific can be far more damaging than heavy oil spills.

Last week an Australian warship helped avert a shipping-related environmental catastrophe in Papua New Guinea waters while in New Zealand efforts continue to deal with oil from the container ship Rena.

Pacific Island countries are generally unequipped to deal with heavy oil spills but Steve Raaymakers of EcoStrategic says much of the region's volume of heavy shipping traffic is low.

He says there are more vessels carrying light or non-persistent oils and the perception in the shipping industry that these aren't a problem is unfortunate.

"They are extremely toxic. They're far more toxic than the heavy persistent oils and so in many ways they're actually a greater concern, so if they do impact on a reef or a mangrove area, the damage can be far more significant than heavy persistent oils."

Steve Raaymakers says all Pacific countries need to sign up to international marine pollution conventions and then put laws in place to implement them.