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    Government’s scathing attack against us because of our criticism on the way they handled the Wilmington issue must not go unanswered. It’s suggestion that GONHS did not support our statement came as a surprise, as the joint position was debated between the two groups before being released to the press. In a letter to the Gibraltar Chronicle, dated 4th November, GONHS stated its position on the bunkering issue, which in essence, does not differ from our own and confirms that our press release was issued in good faith.

    Further, for Government to intimate that we had failed to show proper respect for Gibraltar’s independent judicial process was totally wrong, uncalled-for and mischievous.


    It is also regrettable that Government stated that we are fuelling the anti-Gibraltar politically motivated bunkering lobby, which could be interpreted as an insinuation that we are in collusion with that lobby. Nothing can be further from the truth and most sensible citizens will be only too aware of the great efforts that we, as a group, have always made to remain totally outside of any political allegiance. Because of our environmentalist concerns, we wish Gibraltar’s bunkering business to be run in an environmentally safe manner. As an environmental group we feel that what would be unreasonable, irresponsible and nonsensical (to quote the accusations levelled at us by Government) would be for us not to speak out against what we believe is wrong.


    We believe that any single hull tanker carrying heavy fuel in our waters, be it for refuelling or for transit on to the refinery or elsewhere, represents an unacceptable risk to Gibraltar, because of the grave consequences of a major oil spill incident. Besides the damage to our marine ecosystems it would also affect our desalination plants which are situated on the western side of Gibraltar, thus threatening our capacity to produce potable water. Damage to our tourism industry as well as the long-term effects on the general health of the population resulting from the consumption of fish from the area must not be overlooked.

    It is therefore unfortunate that, in spite of the consequences of such an accident, the Government has not taken all the appropriate legislative steps to minimise this risk.


    It is the Government of the day that is entrusted by the people to legislate and pass laws that meet the best possible standards needed for general protection and safety. And on this occasion Government has failed to do so, hence our criticism. We feel that Government’s handling of this matter demonstrates once again a lack of adequate environmental management which, we believe, stems from the insufficient importance it gives to environmental issues in general.

    We must remind Government that for us this is not a political argument. We are presenting our arguments from an environmental point of view which is an important aspect in this affair and should be heard with the respect it deserves. We could be accused of not displaying the cold aloof detachment and subtlety necessary to interpret the economic, legal, or political dimensions of this matter. However, we have spoken from the heart and with the interest of our society and our environment as our priority. We believe that economic prosperity and environmental safety are not incompatible as some people might wish to believe. Our over-riding priority for bunkering would be that it should be carried out with the highest possible standards available. To act otherwise would be a folly in such a busy, restricted bay.

    We finally wish to remind Government that the ESG group was conceived and developed exclusively for the protection of our environment. We will not be silenced and cannot, and will not, hold back statements on issues which we consider to be fundamental, because these might be used, by some party or other, as fuel in a political argument.


    ESG committee