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    16th AUGUST 2011

    STAKEHOLDERS: GONHS, ESG, Gibraltar Federation of Sea Anglers, Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar Sub Aqua Club, Both Worlds Residents Committee and Both Worlds Retirement Committee

    It is now two months since the ESG first contacted the Chief Minister on behalf of concerned stakeholders to register strong objections over the possible expansion of bunkering off the east side of the Rock. A folder containing detailed concerns from each party was also sent at the time to No. 6.

    No formal response has been received from the Gibraltar Government on this matter so far. All parties submitted their concerns to UK scientists last October during a preliminary EIA consultation exercise.

    The groups believe it is critical for this issue to be kept in the public domain in view of the widespread public interest and today issue a joint statement providing many reasons why bunkering expansion to the east side of the Rock should not be allowed. It is important to note that the various groups have specific reasons for objecting to bunkering expansion. However there is a large area of broad agreement which forms part of this statement.

    These are centred on five key areas:

    1. Environmental legislation and laws
    2. Bunkering impacts on the environment
    3. Bunkering impacts on quality of life
    4. Mitigating issues relating to bunkering
    5. Other, more general considerations

    The most important issue is the continued lack of EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), or Appropriate Assessment such as required under the Habitats Directive in view of the area’s status as a Special Area of Conservation. Not only has an Appropriate Assessment not been carried out but the initial EIA announced several months ago appears to have faltered and never been produced. This could indicate that the project has also been dropped which would be strongly welcomed by the undersigned groups.

    We would however, like to publicly set out why we oppose this type of industrial activity on the east side of Gibraltar.

    2. Bunkering impacts on the natural environment in a number of ways. Chronic spills of fuel and chemicals are detrimental to marine life and vegetation. This has a knock-on effect on our local biodiversity. The accidents off Gibraltar’s coastline over the years have starkly demonstrated the lingering impacts of oil pollution on the marine environment which must be avoided at all costs. The severe impacts from dragging anchors on the seabed and reefs are highly damaging and must be minimised not increased. Any significant increase in shipping activity will also automatically increase the risk of a serious accident with the long-term consequences this would have on the natural environment.

    3. Quality of life is also a hugely important factor when objecting to east side bunkering activity. Bunkering is also associated with regular impacts such as fumes, noise pollution and general environmental degradation. The East coast being what it is means that the introduction of such industrialised activity would threaten a major recreational and bathing area for a large part of our community. West coast bunkering continues to carry all these impacts which are exacerbated in certain wind directions. If bunkering were to proceed on the east side we would not only be creating a problem on the east but increasing problems to west flank communities who would now receive fumes no matter the wind direction.

    4. In the course of any analysis conducted on the possible bunkering expansion, a number of mitigation measures would need to be considered. “Vapour Recovery Technology” (VRT) is such a measure that, if applied, could eliminate some of the fumes entering our common airspace when servicing vessels. The long awaited “Vessel Tracking Technology” (VTS), introduced long after the boom in bunkering business should now play its role in safely policing shipping movements within and adjacent to the Bay area and not be used to pave the way for further shipping activity. Increased monitoring should also involve close liaison with regional port authorities which needs to be actively pursued. Mitigation could also be applied by introducing fixed anchorage points to limit the destructive impacts of lowering anchors onto fresh areas of seabed and ensuing dragging. It’s clear that response time to any future marine accident on the east side would throw up problems of time, distance and weather conditions. Any spills would be impossible to contain in open waters and absence of adequate response equipment locally for a major incident would result in disastrous long term impacts to the natural environment, residents and the tourism trade.

    5. Hotel owners in the area are totally opposed to such bunkering activity due to the degradation of the environment this will bring and how this will affect their business as well as jeopardise any future tourism development in Gibraltar. The special environment which exists on the east side of the Rock deserves sensitive development and management given it provides a much needed haven in an otherwise densely populated and busy urban environment that Gibraltar is today. Developing the east side with these points in mind would bring long term, sustainable benefits to both the local community, the tourism industry and to the environment.

    In conclusion the groups reiterate that the social marginal utility gained from the increase in commerce is clearly outweighed by the social marginal disutility brought on by the environmental risk exposure. At what social and environmental cost will this relatively small % increase in GDP be enjoyed?
    £ is not the scarce resource – our waters, marine life, coastline and quality of life are.

    The groups call upon all political parties, including the present Government, to publish their policy on bunkering expansion to the East Side of Gibraltar. This massively important social and environmental issue represents a critical time for balancing industrialisation in Gibraltar with preserving our quality of life and natural environment and as such deserves full transparency by all political parties ahead of the next general election.

    Please visit the ESG and GONHS website where full statements by all stakeholders will soon be posted