Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 8th January 2008.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has raised concerns with the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat on pollution from the sinking of a passenger cruise vessel in Antarctic waters.

Photo of Meg Munn Meg Munn Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The UK has not raised any concerns with the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat on this issue as the Secretariat has no executive powers to take action. This is a matter for Treaty Parties. We have consulted experts from the British Antarctic Survey, whose initial view is that the environmental impacts from the vessel are likely to be minimal. The M/S Explorer used marine gas oil, which is a light non-persistent fuel. The ship sank in open water, some 50 nautical miles from the nearest point of land and any penguin or seabird colonies. There have been reports of fuel leakage, but this has been dissipating quickly and evaporating in the open water. HMS "Endurance" is due to arrive in Antarctica shortly and she will use swath bathymetry to accurately locate the position of the vessel on the seabed and report on any visible signs of pollution.

Tourism and cruise ship safety in Antarctica will be major discussion topics at the next Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Kiev in June 2008. The UK will continue to engage fully with other Treaty Parties in these discussions and will pursue its proposals for measures to strengthen the contingency plans of cruise ships in the Antarctic.

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