Harsh Penalties for Oil Spills

The Federal Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese has announced new penalties for oil spills following recent incidents around the Australian coast.

Ships which leak oil into Australian waters now face fines of $11 million after penalties introduced by the Gillard Labor Government passed through Parliament.

The changes will increase the penalties for the discharge of oil or oil residues by ships in Australian waters from $1 million to $11 million.

The aim of the new law is to deter shipping companies and their crews from engaging in unsafe and irresponsible actions at sea, particularly near environmentally sensitive marine ecosystems.

The changes to the Navigation Act and Protection of the Seas Act will result in fewer risks being taken by the shipping industry, which will provide greater protection to areas such as the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef.

The Minister said that while large incidents are rare, the potential impact of a spill would be significant, not only for the environment but also on our tourism and fishing industries.

The new laws follow a review of Australia's maritime offences following last year's grounding of the Shen Neng in the Great Barrier Reef.

Around 250 shipping incidents have occurred in Australian waters every year over the last ten years and tougher penalties were required.

In addition to the fines shipping companies will be liable to contribute to the cost of cleaning up.

There are over 25,000 voyages by ships to and around Australia each year and 99 percent of Australia's international trade is carried by ships.