Submission to NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into oil spills on Sydney Harbour with special reference to
the Shell/Gore Cove terminal spill Tuesday August 3rd, 1999
by Tom McLoughlin, [then] natural areas policy officer
Friends of the Earth Sydney (FoE), 28th February 2000
"Sydney needs to take a hard look
at how it protects its best asset"
- byline to 'Crude oil spill a timely wake-up call' by Ian Kiernan, Sydney Morning
Herald August 5th 1999 indicating the priceless value of Sydney Harbour (see attachment *).
"Mr Jim Starkey, head
of the Australian Institute of Petroleum, said the spill might have been prevented if the Ship/Shore Safety Check List had
been followed properly."
- in 'Booms part of oil tanker safety' plan Sydney Morning Herald 20th August 1999 indicating
Shell's joint responsibility for safety.
"Well, most of the, the most toxic substances in the oil generally are the
sort of small molecular weight substances. In other words the ones which are shorter chain molecules and they tend to be the
ones that get through to the tissues of organisms. Fortunately for the marine life they tend to be the ones that evaporate
off more quickly. " [italics, bold added]
-Mr Duncan Leadbitter, Executive Director - Ocean Watch (commercial fishing
environmental watchdog) Stateline ABC TV 6th August 1999 identifying the toxic fumes inhaled by thousands of Sydney-siders.
'Flood of calls as residents fear gas leak' [italics, bold added]
- headline page 4 Daily Telegraph 4th August
1999 indicating significant public exposure to toxic fumes.
"Shell Australia manager Gary Smith last night issued
an apology to everyone affected by the spill.
" We sincerely apologise to residents for the inconvenience they are experiencing
from odours associated with the oil" he said."
- The Daily Telegraph August 4th 1999 page 4 indicating Shell's acknowledgement
Kerry O'Brien: "But do you know the extent to which Shell satisfies itself that the crew of the tanker unloading
at your terminals are competent to do so?"
Doug Hyde for Shell: "If that, if that is a shortfall in any of our processes,
Kerry, that will come out in our own internal investigation and in the other investigations that will go on."
"Which you will share with us in the end we hope?"
Doug Hyde for Shell: "We will."
- interview 7.30 Report ABC TV
4th August 1999 indicating Shell has a report still withheld from the public and a supervisory role over crews of chartered
"They [oil terminal owners] have a responsibility to be publicly accountable. They have a responsibility to
ensure that the vessel that they hire does meet all the required international safety standards, and is operated in a safe
manner." [Bold italics added]
- Peter Morris, Chair of the International Commission on Shipping, and author of the Federal
Government's 1992 Ships of Shame Inquiry on 7.30 Report ABC TV 22nd February 2000 describing the legal liability of oil terminal
owners - Mobil's Holden Dock in this case - where an oil tanker was at risk of explosion on Sept. 4th 1999.
for the oil companies' behaviour is that they realised that following the Exxon Valdeez disaster that, because Exxon lost
some two billion dollar sales at the petrol pump, oil companies don't want to be seen to be associated with anything .. any
kind of accident, disaster, ah unsafe event, involving tankers and the movement of oil"
- Peter Morris again, commenting
on secrecy around oil tankers and oil terminals affecting the environment and public safety 7.30 Report ABC TV, 22nd February
"This is not the first time oil has been spilt at Gore Cove. In 1984 about 40 tonnes of crude oil spilt into
the harbour at Gore Cove when a Shell barge pumped 1,900 tonnes of oil into a tank with a capacity of 1,217 tonnes. Shell
was found to be negligent and was fined $25,000. In 1993 about 10 tonnes of crude oil spilt into Gore Cove as it was being
transferred from one tank to another, both on land."
- 'Oil spill on the harbour' lead editorial Sydney Morning Herald
7th August 1999 indicating pattern of oil transport accidents.
"Shell faces 35 safety charges over refinery"
Refinery (Australia) has been charged with breaching Victoria's health and safety laws after an audit of its firefighting
facilities last year.
- The Age newspaper 19th August 1999 sourced to AAP news service indicating Shell's generally poor
corporate safety record.
"Shell were found guilty of "causing waste to come in contact with water causing material
environmental harm" from a leak in one of their underground fuel storage tanks less than 1 kilometre from the CBD of Alice
Springs in May 1997. Shell was found guilty and fined $75,000 in February 1999."
- Deborah Metters, Co-ordinator of the
Arid Lands Environment Centre in Alice Springs, 18th August 1999 indicating Shell is regularly in trouble somewhere.
Introduction: FoE welcomes the opportunity to assist the Legislative Council Inquiry scrutiny
of the Sydney oil spill last year and Harbour management issues generally. In particular this submission focuses on matters
1(a) to 1(d) inclusive in the Terms of Reference with particular emphasis on the Shell/Gore Cove oil spill on 3rd August 1999.
The submission relies on evidence provided on the public record from reputable media sources and on the ground inspections
and site visits (e.g. Gore Cove and Taronga Zoo).
FoE's group profile is attached (attachment #1). FoE is publicly
funded and is independent of government and industry.
FoE through the author and a freelance photographer Glen Lockitch
started monitoring the oil spill from Shell's Gore Cove terminal from 9.00am Wednesday 4th August onwards some 18 hours after
the oil spill the evening before - for instance see media releases re public interest in the spill entitled:
inquiry needed into massive Sydney oil slick: Ignition risk, toxic fumes, booms delayed, Shell's legal duty of care' Friends
of the Earth Sydney media release 10th August 1999 (#2), and
- 'Community checklist for Waterways Authority report
on Sydney oil slick due tomorrow (Fri 13th August)' Friends of the Earth Sydney media release 12th August 1999 (#3).
submission has sections relating to
A. Environmental damage including photographic evidence;
B. The role of
(a) In the treatment of sea birds;
(b) Shell's fake "apology" for an ever increasing volume spill; and
(c) Failure to release Matt Taylor investigation report announced concurrent with orchestrated Botany Cove Sea Wall story;
C. Apparent failure to investigate and prosecute legal proceedings thoroughly;
D. Shell and the oil industry's
previous awful track record on safety and spills; and
E. Bob Carr's "working harbour" a pre-emptive justification
for inevitable future oil spill damage to Sydney Harbour
The author holds qualifications in zoology and law with substantial
experience as a legal and environmental policy officer.
In summary FoE submits
1. Significant environmental
damage was caused to bird and marine life and the substrate of Sydney Harbour by the August 3rd oil slick, with reports of
hundreds of native birds poisoned possibly fatally. These effects inevitably affect tourism and environmental values. Photographic
evidence is provided;
2. Thousands of Sydney-siders and workers and public either at the terminal and/or nearby harbour
were poisoned by petro-chemical fumes. Risk of ignition and toxic soot endangering hundreds of peoples lives has been underestimated
or ignored. This suggests a safety audit is urgently needed;
3. Shell and the government have effectively orchestrated
a cover up of Shell's shared liability and the impacts of the oil spill possibly to maintain employment and businesss interests
at Gore Cove terminal. Unfortunately Taronga Zoo is implicated in the government's PR cover-up strategy;
4. The government's
addiction to secrecy is endangering public safety by failing to provide transparent explanation of the events of 3rd August
1999 to allow proper planning responses and public consultation to prevent future oil spills;
5. There is a failure
to undertake a thorough legal investigation and prosecution of Shell as terminal owner and charterer of the Laura D'Amato
with unresolved questions as to
a. Failure to date to seize documentary evidence from Shell re operating manuals,
safety procedures, correspondence, their investigation report etc;
b. Why the volume of the oil spill was under reported
for so long?
c. Failure of Shell to effectivley implement the joint Ship/Shore Safety Checklist and ensure safe operating
d. What, if any, legal issues prevent release of the Taylor report?;
e. Apparent non-compliance with the
Contaminated Land Management Act and offensive odour regulations;
f. Why the Health Department and fire authorites including
CSIRO were given no role regarding investigation of air pollution threats to public health and ignition risk respectively?
g. Shell's illegal attempts to prevent FoE access to public land;
h. Shell's joint liability for competency of chartered
ship's crew and safe operations proximate to their terminal;
i. what was the motive for the highly speculative "sabotage"
These matters suggest there is a lack of independence in current regulation of oil spills and protection
of the environment.
6. The saboteur scapegoat theory is unfounded, self serving and wishful thinking by stakeholders.
The facts are entirely consistent with negligence in works systems, inadequate staff training, inadequate ship design, and/or
non compliance with existing safety protocols by Shell terminal staff and ship's crew;
7. Shell along with other multinationals
in the oil industry are constant offenders against worker safety and repeatedly cause environmental degradation. They routinely
apply huge investment in public relations spin doctoring to cover their misdeeds in Australia and internationally. The Sydney
oil slick and incident at Holden Dock, Yarraville last September are but two recent examples.
8. Premier Bob Carr's
media assertions the Gore Cove oil terminal must stay is grossly pre-emptive of investigations, reckless with public safety,
and if unchallenged will lead to future inevitable oil spills and maintain an undeserved comfort zone to Shell - a repeat
Harbour polluter. FoE supports research and assessment as a foundation for a short term timetable to close the Gore Cove terminal.
Copies of attachments are referred to as #1, #2, etc.
A. Environmental damage including photographic evidence
Sydney and Australia was very lucky the prevailing winds were southerly on the evening of 3rd August 1999 so that the
300,000 litre oil slick was confined mainly to the northern shoreline. Even so, contrary to early reports, the light crude
oil spread up and down the harbour for perhaps 10 kilometres.
Similarly the author mid morning on August 4th witnessed
from Manns Point Lookout above Gore Cove the movement of oil over the oil booms eventually set sometime in the evening on
August 3rd. Gusts of westerly wind mid morning August 4th were suggestive of oil contamination west of Greenwich Point further
afield in the harbour. Fumes were noticeable in the train on the Harbour Bridge at 9.15 am August 4th again suggestive of
a widespread spill.
This impression was all contrary to the official line early 4th August that the oil spill had
been well contained by oil booms. This official line was not persisted with in the light of media photography over the next
48 hours proving beyond doubt the widespread nature of the spill beyond the oil booms: For instance see 'THE BIG SPILL/Stain
on the harbour' page 1, Sydney Morning Herald 5th August 1999 (#4).
See the attached labelled photographs taken on
Thursday 5th August 1999 by Glen Lockitch freelance photographer retained by FoE (#5).
Note the dead cuttlefish found
within the oil boom. This suggests sub surface species have been killed by oil fractions dissolving into the water body itself.
FoE understands from the Australian Museum's fish expert that cuttlefish live in underwater rocky overhangs such that those
overhangs may have been contaminated, not just the shoreline/littoral zone.
The cuttlefish was promptly given to an
Australian Museum fish expert who I understand may have passed same to the Environment Protection Authority for analysis.
FoE understands all the captured oil affected cormorants died and an unknown undiscovered number of vertebrate species
- fish and marine birds may have been killed. It is unclear to FoE whether newly discovered icon species like native water
rats on Goat Island or weedy sea dragons suffered any lasting affect. It is known that a whale entered the harbour as far
as Mosman some days after the slick suggesting some parts of the harbour and larger species were unaffected.
of oil fractions by shoreline rocky substrate will have killed shellfish life such as sedentary filter feeders. Given the
300,000 litres over perhaps 10 kilometres of shoreline the harbour oil residue may well have contaminated shellfish/shoreline
environments including the rocky substrate for a very, very long time (years?).
FoE notes the eminent marine biologist
Prof Tony Underwood of Sydney University, and Professor Paul Adam have to a degree played down likely damage to the harbour
by noting that immediate mortality of marine invertebrate life and marine flora is only temporary given inevitable re-colonisation.
However ongoing unresolved concerns include:
a. absorbed oil fractions into the shoreline, silt and rock of the harbour,
b. the delay in re-colonisation,
c. the health of new colonies of invertebrates,
d. the question of bio-accumulation
of oil poisons, congealed oil deposited on the harbour floor for years to come,
e. extent of unknown birdlife and marine
An expert opnion on these matters would be welcome.
Regarding bird mortality FoE understands most
cormorants captured and taken to Taronga Zoo died. Similarly there was a report of pelicans having deserted Rose Bay further
east (Daily Telegraph page 4, 6th August 1999, #6). The operations co-ordinator for wildlife management at the NSW National
Parks & Wildlife Service, Ms Fiona Mandelc is quoted as saying more than 300 reports of oily birds - probably black and
pied cormorants, egrets, herons, and penguins known to be in the harbour - were lodged potentially all fatally poisoned, with
only four penguins and four cormorants being taken to Taronga Zoo at the 8th August 1999 : Sydney Morning Herald 9th August
1999 in 'Oil spill tanker may go if insurer promises to pay for clean-up' (#7).
Acrid fumes blanketed large parts
of harbourside north shore suburbs including most graphically the studio live to air of the 7.30 Report at Gore Hill on 3rd
August 1999. The actual impact on and safety of the human environment, as well as level of risk from ignition of acrid fumes
remains unclear to the present day. Media reports suggested detection of a stench 25 kilometres away.
The author subjected
himself to the fumes a full 18 hours after the spill on the morning of August 4th adjacent to Shell Park some 100 metres or
more from the terminal and perhaps 500 metres from the water body - the experience was one of deep nausea after perhaps 15
seconds normal breathing together with a creeping sense of panic to escape the fume laden area. On that personal test as a
single "nose" the author was gravely concerned for the wellbeing of any frail, aged and young within the impact zone of the
fume cloud. The author also can report clearly experiencing the fumes within the train carriage of the city rail train on
the harbour bridge at about 9.15 am 4th August, yet having an untainted breeze in harbourside suburban streets in Waverton
at 9.45 am.
B. The role of PR manipulation
(a) in the treatment of penguins and birds
One of the most
cyncial outcomes of the oil spill was the predictable media focus (orchestrated by the authorities) of fairy penguins and
cormorants put on display while being cleaned, warmed and generally rehabilitated. This involved graphic "cute" footage on
the nightly news and large format photographs at the front of daily newspapers of penguins or cormorants at Taronga Zoo being
cleaned and kept warm.
Taronga Zoo for instance issued a media release dated 3rd August 1999 headed "ZOO HELPS SYDNEY
HARBOUR'S OILED BIRDS" (#8) referring to techniques develped after the 1995 Iron Baron oil spill in Tasmania. The contact
is "Darill Clements, Public Relations Manager". The Iron Baron incident created a precedent in Australia for PR spin doctoring
around major oil spill disasters. The BHP response to Iron Baron was to set up a "war room" to neutralise adverse publicity.
The Taronga Zoo public relations was incredibly effective attracting an impressive media contingent at set peice cleaning
demonstrations including of the doomed cormorants.
In relation to the Sydney Harbour oil slick see the following "cute"
style of coverage:
- 'A toxic blanket/Wildlife in danger for weeks/the clean up' Daily Telegraph page 5, 5th August
- 'All-out assault on oil-clogged harbour'Sydney Morning Herald page 1, 6th August 1999 (#10).
'Luck as rain breaks up oil slick' Sun Herald 8th August 1999 (#11)
- 'Penguin flap eases, but spill still a worry
for shore' page 5, Australian 6th August 1999 (#12)
- 'First penguin rescued' Daily Telegraph page 5, 6th August 1999
Tragically such foreign human centred surroundings are profoundly stressful and can be a cause of shock and
death by itself.
The predictable cute media coverage of the release of the few wildlife survivors out of the rehabilitation
process was also quite disproportionate to the overall environmental outcome: For instance see:
- 'It's safe to go
home' Daily Telegraph 14th September 1999 (#14);
- 'Back to sea for a fairy tale ending' Sydney Morning Herald 14th
Sept 1999 (#15);
- 'Omo the penguin is ready to head home' Sunday Telegraph 5th Sept. 1999 (#16);
- 'A toxic
blanket/Wildlife in danger for weeks/Threatened wildlife' Daily Telegraph page 5, 5th August 1999 (#9)
go wild about clean bill of health' Australian page 3, 21st Jan. 2000 (re Westernport Cove spill, Victoria) (#17)
overall false impression to the public is that, yes there has been an accident but no lasting harm is done and the animals
are being well cared for. In fact FoE understands that the captured cormorants after suffering very significant stress from
being handled, all subsequently died from oil and stress and that over 300 reports of oiled birds were lodged with the NPWS
within 4 days of the spill. But no corpses were then on display to the media. Similarly any undiscovered penguins and other
species fatally contaminated would not have been publicised.
Apparently there is no media interest in corpses particularly
of less cute species e.g. a dead cuttlefish presented at Taronga Zoo or cormorants that died later presumably from oil and
stress of handling.
Specifically, while praising Taronga Zoo and wildlife carers generally for their role in rehabilitation,
FoE is concerned about Taronga Zoo's co-operation in orchestrating a media spin obscuring the real level of damage away from
the cameras and limited extent of rehabilitation possible. Taronga Zoo recently received a major boost in government funding
we hope unrelated to its assistance in media spin enabling the government and harbour authorities to unjustifiably claim an
effective rehabilitation of affected wildlife from the massive oil spill in Sydney Harbour on August 3rd 1999.
trend after big oil slicks around the world of cute visuals and PR spin in the media involves a small fraction of penguins
and other fauna being rehabilitated while hundreds or thousands of other creatures undergo agonising deaths. The latest cute
image to be promoted is the "penguin poncho" to prevent oil affected penguins preening and thus ingesting poisonous oil (Phillip
Island oil spill early January 2000). See for instance
- 'Slick new penguin suits in vogue' Australian 5th January
- 'Sea birds at risk as oil spill spreads' Australian page 5, 4th January 2000 (#19);
'Penguins killed as slick hits colony' Australian page 5, 3rd January 2000 (#20),
FoE applauds the effort and dedication
to rehabilitation by wildlife carer groups but questions the deceptive nature of media reporting of their efforts. It should
always be remembered that mortality from oil slicks can be absolutely horrendous: 15,000 sea birds dead from the late December
1999 oil slick off the French Coast with a potential 100,000 sea birds potentially to be poisoned to death (Daily Telegraph
page 31, 28th December1999, #21). A similar level of mortality and PR spin involving rescue operations followed the disastrous
oil spill involving BHP's Iron Baron oil tanker in Tasmania in 1995. Even with this latest Shell/Gore Cove oil spill hundreds
of reports of birds affected - with many certain to have been fatally poisoned after self preening - indicates rehabilitation
is mainly cosmetic.
(b) Shell's fake "apology"
"Shell Australia manager Gary Smith last night issued an apology
to everyone affected by the spill.
" We sincerely apologise to residents for the inconvenience they are experiencing
from odours associated with the oil" he said."
- The Daily Telegraph page 4, August 4th 1999 (#22)
apologised for the oil spill which fouled Sydney Harbour and its chairman promised to take "personal ownership" of the clean-up
as the company moved to limit its public relations damage."
- 'MANAGING THE DAMAGE/Shell goes well with slick public
relations blitz' Sydney Morning Herald page 4, 5th August 1999 (#23).
Shell's apology and later well publicised expression
of regret (see copy attached - Daily Telegraph August 13 1999 (#24), and Sydney Morning Herald undated, #25) on the face of
it suggests culpability at some level for the actual incident or the extent of the oil slick whether by chartering incompetent
ship staff or having an unsafe work system in place.
Apparently an apology is the recommended approach of the PR industry
for corporate damage control for a potentially very expensive accident with major negative implications for commercial reputation
in the market place. The problem is Shell, apology or regrets notwithstanding, have to date not accepted any shared legal
liability for the environmental damage involved instead relying on the admission of liability by the Laura D'Amato owners.
Shell also apparently has political friends and spin doctors keen to keep their responsibility out of the spot light.
did Shell apologise if not to acknowledge shared responsibility? Their shared liability is discussed further below in "C.
Apparent failure to investigate and prosecute legal proceedings thoroughly".
(c) announcement of govt refusal to release
Matt Taylor/Sydney Waterways Authority investigation report concurrent with orchestrated Botany Cove Sea Wall/Towra Point
The Summer on the harbour liftout Sydney Morning Herald 12th December 1999 (#26) has an invitation to
the public to comment on a discussion paper for managing the harbour public resource. The matter of oil pollution and what
are acceptable activities in Sydney's "working harbour" and what are dangerously incompatible activities should be informed
by the Taylor investigation report into the August 3rd oil slick and reports of subsequent investigations including this Parliamentary
Inquiry and Shell documentation relating to the public domain.
Public comments on the DUAP discussion paper are seriously
limited without access to all reports. It is blatantly inconsistent of the NSW government to call for submissions while suppressing
information for the public to inform their submissions.
FoE acknowledges the observation of Shadow Environment Minister
Peta Seaton there does not seem to be any explicit legal as opposed to political reason for not releasing the Taylor report
given the admission of guilt (i.e. evidence probably of partial or shared culpability) by the Laura D'Amato owners.
NSW government culture of secrecy has been a matter of general comment in NSW and national political affairs and a tragic
disservice to the citizens of NSW - the ultimate employers of government. A selection of comments relevant to the Sydney oil
spill on August 3rd are extracted here and attached:
- 'Carr's team addicted to secrecy' lead editorial Australian
17th August 1999
"The perpetrators of the serious oil spill in Sydney Harbour two weeks ago are to be prosecuted.
The NSW Government is to be commended for taking swift action to bring those responsible before the courts. Yet the announcement
by Premier Bob Carr is totally unsatisfactory. Th oil spill not only threatened one of the nation's finest natural features,
it inconvenienced thousands of people and it caused fears of an ecological disaster. Yet the public does not know precisely
who is responsible, how it occurred, how accurate are the estimates of how much oil was leaked, what was its environmental
impact and, more importantly, what action is proposed to avoid a repetition. These are not matters of idle speculation. They
are issues of public interest that go to the very heart of the confidence the public has in the capacity of a government to
administer its interests competently.
"Mr Carr commissioned a senior government employee to study the circumstances
of the spill. An interim report was delivered to him yesterday amid carefully orchestrated publicity. Yet Mr Carr decided
the public should not know what was in the report they funded. He claimed legal action would prevent, for several weeks, the
full report being publicly released. It was the Government's intention and desire, he said, to see the report released but
there were legal implications, so it would not be released. What popycock.
"The Government's position is
in stark contrast to that of Shell Australia, at whose facilities the tanker Laura D'Amato was unloading. The company is prepared
to release its investigation but is waiting for release of the Government's report...." (#27)
- 'Sabotaging the right
to know' Sun Herald editorial 5th Sept 1999
"The incident [unrelated to oil slicks] shows how easily authorities can
mislead the public, not only by massaging facts and sweeping information under the carpet but by downright lies.
"The tanker oil spill in Sydney Harbour, later revealed to be 30 times worse than orginally claimed, was an example of
a government agency minimising the extent of a disaster." (#28)
- 'The public has a right to know' Financial Review
editorial 20th January 2000
"At both state and Federal level there has been a trend towards governments acting as
if they have rights to control information which are separate and superior to the rights of the people who elected them. This
is not the case in some countries - ranging from Germany, where official briefings on Cabinet meetings are held, to Canada,
where public servants are required to disclose information about risks to the public." (#29)
- 'A Herald investigation
- State of secrecy' Pilita Clark Sydney Morning Herald 27th Feb. 1999
"For decades, NSW governments have been keeping
the public in the dark. Now Bob Carr is taking this culture of secrecy to new extremes." (#30).
True to form - having
acknowledged the broad public awareness and expectation of effective government response to avoid future spills - an investigative
report was promised by the Premier and ministers to resolve the mystery of causation and other matters around the 3rd August
oil spill but withheld. The announcement on Monday 16th August to withhold the report was bound to annoy the public.
(and cynically) Environment Minister Debus played his part in organising "carefully orchestrated publicity" (Australian editorial
extracted above 17th August 1999). Specifically another coastal marine environmental protection issue of real importance was
brought forward to confuse (regarding changed currents from the 3rd Runway effect in Botany Bay affecting internationally
recognised Towra Point wetlands). To sell the prominence of a good news marine environment story at Towra Point seeding money
of $85,000 was announced (the same day as the oil slick report was suppressed) for an EIS with a potential for $5 million
in public works at some time in the future but with no guarrantees).
This was a very cheap $85,000 worth of neutralising
publicity resulting in ABC TV prime time news coverage (complete with tame local greenies "you can't stop development but
you can learn to live with it") back to back with the oil slick story, prominent picture story in the Sydney Morning Herald
('One good tern and they're bound for Botany Bay' page 6, 17th August 1999, #31), and concurrent stories on page 8 of the
Daily Telegraph 17th August 1999 ('Still no one to blame for spill' and 'Seawall to help save rare birds', #32).
Debus cynical manipulation of journalists and some environmentalists was clever but probably too clever in terms of good government
and democratic process.
C. Apparent failure to investigate and prosecute legal proceedings thoroughly.
pumping could begin, officers from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Sydney Ports Corporation and Shell boarded the
tanker to conduct a routine check ...
- 'Valve opening; harbour's turn for the worst' Australian p11 7-8 August 1999
indicating stakeholders with much to lose if found negligent in making proper inspection, and much to gain by supporting the
highly speculative saboteur theory (#33).
FoE notes by way of contrast the effort of Japanese authorities to assess
the safety and adequacy of work systems of a company inolved in the nuclear accident at Tokaimura by seizing all relevant
documents such as safety manuals and training documentation: "Police raid over nuclear accident" Sydney Morning Herald 17/12/99
(#34a), ABC web page 16/12/99 (#34b). The Sydney oil spill involving threat of ignition, and toxic fumes was a risk to life
and wellbeing of as many people as happened at Tokaimura.
There is no doubt that Shell has documents relevant to an
investigation by the authorities including
a. their investigation report
b. safety manuals
c. training manuals
d. work procedures
e. related correspondence and policy documents.
For instance Mr Doug Hyde spokesperson
for Shell was interviewed on the 7.30 Report on 4th August 1999:
Interviewer, Kerry O'Brien: "But do you know that
extent to which Shell satisfies itself that the crew of the tanker unloading at your terminals are competent to do so?"
Hyde for Shell: "If that, if that is a shortfall in any of our processes, Kerry, that will come out in our own internal investigation
and in the other investigations that will go on."
Interviewer: "Which you will share with us in the end we hope?"
Hyde for Shell: "We will."
In relation to Shell's investigation report and other Shell materials this should be subpoenaed
as soon as possible, provided to the Legislative Council Inquiry and to the public albeit 5 months late.
documents should be obtained re Shell's apparent breach of duty of care and any unsafe work systems/training procedures including
implementation of the Ship/Shore Safety Check List referred to by the Australian Institute of Petroleum (below). One should
recall that toxic fumes enveloped thousands of residents on the north shore of Sydney Harbour. If ignition had occurred on
3rd August toxic vapours would have compounded the respiratory threat and likely would have incinerated workers and any nearby
members of the public unlucky enough to have been walking, fishing or boating in the area.
Quotes extracted on the
cover page of this submission re widespread perception of a "gas leak" are alarming when compared with the safety signs at
the Gore Cove terminal itself alerting the public and workers of the risk of ignition. To quote the warning sign on the fenceline
perhaps five metres from the oil boom at Gore Cove terminal "SMOKING PROHIBITED/NO MATCHES OR LIGHTERS ALLOWED IN THIS TERMINAL".
Similarly there is a very prominent sign in red capitals on the Laura D'Amato itself exhorting "NO SMOKING". Refer to the
photographs at #5. This signage raises squarely the grave question of threat of ignition from the spill fumes especially at
the times of most concentration soon after the spill.
It is noteworthy that on Thursday afternoon 5th August one Shell
security officer outside the perimter fence of their terminal attempted to prevent the author and a freelance photographer
access to public areas to take photographs claiming the area was restricted land (in fact part of the Mann's Point Park public
reserve adjacent to the terminal). Soon after a second terminal staffer objected claiming the camera battery might create
a spark and ignition risk (as it happened the camera was non-electric/mechanical type). At the time of the photographs it
was Thursday 5th August when much of the oil fumes had evaporated, motor boats were skimming in the area and trucks were arriving
and leaving in the same location (taking recycled oil) which all posed a much more likely source of sparks. This was a sinister
experience of Shell staff attempting to suppress public scrutiny.
On face value it seems irresponsible of the NSW
government to delegate air quality impacts for investigation to the Sydney Waterway's Authority and not expertise within say
the NSW Health Dept and/or NSW EPA. Similarly issues of ignition risk might best be delegated to the fire authorities and/or
CSIRO. Shell's poor corporate performance on fire safety is commented on by reference to prosecution underway in Victoria
at Geelong in the next section of this submission.
The Financial Review reports ('Green Law: directors fingered' 8th
May 1999, #35) that "a surprising 29 per cent of companies had no procedures for reporting environmental incidents to regulators":
Arthur Andersen's CFP Pulse survey. It should be clarified what formal reporting mechanisms are in place for the Gore Cove
terminal operated by Shell.
The Financial Review. article goes on to point out a new law - the Protection of the Environment
Operations Act, whereby
"companies will be required to report "pollution incidents" which cause or threaten material
Apparently Shell staff and/or ship staff made such a report to authorities on the evening of August
3rd but there are serious questions as to how timely and accurate it was. A second question is why would Shell as opposed
to the ship's crew report an incident that was not their responsibility (similar to the question why did Shell apologise by
way of media release - which was then transformed into an expression of regret in paid newspaper advertisements - for a spill
not at least in part their fault?).
For instance in relation to the severity of the spill Charlie Mead, watch officer
on Cape Don stated on ABC TV News 6th August 1999 that they had "more oil on the outside of the boom than they did on the
inside" and that there were no booms in place "for 3 hours".
FoE questions whether the delay in containing the spill
related at least in part to the nauseating toxic fumes and danger of ignition creating a real reluctance of those closest
to take action until sufficient dispersal. FoE also questions the highly inadequate reporting to the public of firstly the
volume of the spill of only 10,000 litres then increasing to a final figure of 300,000 litres (see 'Oil spill worse than was
thought' Sydney Morning Herald 10th August 1999, #36).
It is now reported (20th August 1999, Daily Telegraph page
7, #37) that oil booms will be in place for oil unloading in the harbour as recommended by Matt Taylor of the Waterways Authority,
if only on a trial basis. Apparently this has been the practise in at least one Japanese port for many years, so why not before
The abovementioned Financial Review article also reports that under the new law effective July 1999 namely the
"Contaminated Land Management Act, companies are required to report any land that is found to be contaminated in such
a way as to present a significant risk of harm".
An important question arises: What notifications have been made as
to the oil contamination on the foreshores and probably sub surface substrates of the harbour whether by Shell, the ship operators
or other authorities following the August 3rd oil spill, as required by law?
Apparently there have been significant
oil spills in 1984, 1993 and now 1999 at or near Gore Cove Terminal. The following transcript of an interview on the ABC 7.30
Report 4th August 1999 is revealing and grounds for real concern as to the future acceptability of an oil terminal at Gore
Cove operated by Shell:
Interviewer Kerry O'Brien: "But you are here on hehalf of Shell. Can you say on behalf of
Shell whether or not you can categorically rule out risk of fire with a spill like that.
Doug Hyde, Shell Spokesman:
"I think ... on behalf of Shell it would be ah .... it would be foolish of me to absolutely rule out any issue of that kind."
Interviewer: "Is it true that one of the things it [light crude oil when it burns] gives off is potentially carcinogenic
Doug Hyde: "Ah no I couldn't, I could not confirm that."
[later in the interview]
Interviewer: "You don't
know who is responsible for the unloading on the tanker's end of the operation?"
Doug Hyde for Shell: "I certainly know
who's a, responsible for the unloading process and that was the Shell Company. And you will find that process worked exactly
how it should do. The procedures were in place. The procedures were followed and there was no failure of those procedures.
I just cannot tell you the responsibility of the Shell Company towards the actual operation on the tanker itself."
"But do you know the extent to which Shell satisfies itself that the crew of the tanker unloading at your terminals are competent
to do so?"
Doug Hyde for Shell: "If that, if that is a shortfall in any of our processes, Kerry, that will come out in
our own internal investigation and in the other investigations that will go on."
Interviewer: "Which you will share with
us in the end we hope?"
Doug Hyde for Shell: "We will."
Again in relation to Shell's investigation report and other
Shell materials this should be subpoenaed as soon as possible, provided to the Parliamentary Inquiry and released to the public.
FoE understands that under the current policy of the NSW EPA in administration of the Protection of the Environment
Act offensive odours must remain within the boundary of a site in this case Shell's Gore Cove terminal. Clearly there was
a breach of this requirement.
The following transcription is revealing and very disturbing as to the toxicity of the
lighter fractions inhaled by thousands of people (see quotes on cover page of this submission) and which constituted the pall
of pollution detected over the harbourside north shore suburbs. Ironically it is the tendency to evaporate favouring the marine
life that also serioulsy threatens the above water humanity and wildlife in suburbs nearby.
"Well, most of the, the most
toxic substances in the oil generally are the sort of small molecular weight substances. In other words the ones which are
shorter chain molecules and they tend to be the ones that get through to the tissues of organisms. Fortunately for the marine
life they tend to be the ones that evaporate off more quickly."
-Mr Duncan Leadbitter, Executive Director - Ocean Watch
(commercial fishing environmental watchdog) Stateline ABC TV 6th August 1999
Further anecdotal evidence is contained
in the article 'The stink that came to dinner' Sunday Herald page 4, August 8th 1999 including this comment "The smell was
hurting my nostrils, I could feel it at the back of my throat." (#38). This was the widespread reaction, not an isolated case.
According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, Shell at Gore Cove are subject to ship to shore unloading protocols
in concert with ship staff, the ship was chartered to Shell perhaps in the nature of a sub contractor or employee of Shell,
the ship was docked inside the precincts of the terminal owned and operated by Shell.
For instance "Mr Jim Starkey,
head of the Australian Institute of Petroleum, said the spill might have been prevented if the Ship/Shore Safety Check List
had been followed properly.
The list, to be jointly completed by terminal and tanker staff, included the question:
"Are sea and overboard discharge valves, when not in use, closed and visibly secured?"
Mr Starkey said it was reasonable
to ask how oil could escape from an open valve if the checks had been done."
- 'Booms part of oil tanker safety' plan
SMH 20th August 1999 (#39).
A statement by Greg Martin of Sydney Ports Corporation is instructive
Greg Martin: "Yes
Quentin ah ... you would not want to speculate at this time but I understand that ship has admitted liability already. This
is clearly not a navigational incident. This was ... the ship was already made fast and had been pumping for some time. So
this was clearly an operational incident on the vessel when ...., when they changed lines we understand."
"A mistake was made?"
Greg Martin: "A mistake appears to have been made."
- ABC TV Stateline 6th August 1999
Martin's focus is understandably on the ship's owners admitting liability but this does not suggest exclusive legal liability
given Shell's legal responsibility as terminal owner and charterer (below). Significantly Martin describes the terminal-ship
interface as a joint unloading operation involving Shell and the ship's crew. It is entirely conceivable for instance that
Shell does have a duty of care and/or strict liability for spills occurring within the precincts of, or in close proximity
to their oil terminal at Gore Cove including legal supervisory role of ship's crew. The legal concepts of negligence and strict
liability are well known and appear to apply to Shell here.
Pursuasive and credible commentary on the legal responsibility
of the terminal operator in case of accidents on board docked tankers was made recently by Peter Morris, Chair of the International
Commission on Shipping, and author of the Federal Government's 1992 Ships of Shame Inquiry Report. This commentary was made
on the 7.30 Report 22nd February 2000 regarding the directly analogous context of the Mobil company's Holden Dock at Yarraville,
Melbourne, where an oil tanker chartered by Mobil - the "Eburna", this time ironically owned by Shell (as Shell International)
- suffered an accidental shearing off of a coroded mounting while roped to a tug the "Kirra" on 4th September 1999. A 10 cm
gash was created exposing part of the 30,000 tonne cargo (diesel and unleaded petrol) and consequent risk of ignition.
issues of public safety and public right to know were raised after a semi-secret Marine Board of Victoria Inquiry report was
leaked 5 months later to long time shipping journalist Sandy Galbraith of Lloyd's List Commercial News (see further below).
Holden Dock is not far from the location of explosive fires at Coode Island petro-chemical plant on August 22nd 1991. Coode
Island is testimony that explosive fires can and do happen at petro-chemical plants.
In relation to the Sept 4th incident
Bruce Phillips of the Marine Board of Victoria states
"It had the potential to be very big and we got very alarmed
Similarly Sandy Galbraith comments as follows:
Interviewer Geof Hutchison: "What would it have taken
for that to go up?"
Galbraith: "A small spark. Any small spark. I mean ah friction between two pieces of metal, umm umm
anything at all really."
According to Geof Hutchison of 7.30 Report.
"The [leaked] report concluded there was
a serious safety risk to the vessel and the port. While the atmosphere adjacent to the liquid level was almost certainly too
rich for instant ignition, any subsequent spark in the vicinity of the opening could have resulted in an explosion."
relation to the undesirable secrecy in the oil tanker/oil terminal business the eminent expert Peter Morris states:
reason for the oil companies' behaviour is that they realised that following the Exxon Valdeez disaster that, because Exxon
lost some two billion dollar sales at the petrol pump, oil companies don't want to be seen to be associated with anything
.. any kind of accident, disaster, ah unsafe event, involving tankers and the movement of oil"
- Peter Morris commenting
on secrecy around oil ocean tanker transportation 7.30 Report ABC TV, 22nd February 2000.
Investigative journalist Geof
Hutchison prefaced Peter Morris's additional analysis regarding a terminal owner's responsibility as follows:
"If Shell International is responsible for maintaining the Eburna, what of Mobil Australia the charter operator? It was their
fuel, their dock, their oil tanks nearby. What was their responsibility? Well we simply don't know. A company spokesman [for
Mobil] said he couldn't find anyone to talk to the 7.30 Report and instead suggested we go talk to Shell."
"They [Mobil] have a responsibility to be publicly accountable. They have a responsibility to ensure that the vessel that
they hire does meet all the required international safety standards, and is operated in a safe manner." [Bold italics added]
Peter Morris: "I don't think anybody would disagree, other than Shell, that it was sheer good luck there
wasn't some kind of explosion, some kind of aftermath."
Shell's representative maintained a disingenuous attitude of denial
as to the risks at Holden Dock until challenged as indicated by the following passage in the 7.30 Report - with reference
to an inspection of the Eburna in Darwin in July 1999 by the Australian Marine Safety Authority (AMSA):
Mike Hines, Marine
Manager Shell Australia: "The inspection that AMSA conducted in Darwin was very thorough. The deficiencies noted were in the
main very minor. Things like water dripping from a fire hydrant - nothing more serious than a tap dripping at home."
journalist: "What about the 13 major corrosive problems reported? What were they?"
Mike Hines: "On any old ship there
will always be corrosion. It's inevitable."
A highly expedient rumour of worker sabotage was created after the Gore
Cove spill - completely without evidence. The lack of evidence was confirmed by Mr Matt Taylor quoted in the Sydney Morning
Herald (10th August 1999 "Oil Spill worse than thought" #36) as dismissing such a theory as "highly unlikely" yet this was
the page one headline of the Australian newspaper August 5th 1999 ('Sabotage suspected in harbour oil spill', #40).
rumour ran through the media at Manns Point Park above Gore Cove early on 4th August. It served to dampen media hostility
because if true it could have served to get Shell, the Ship operator, the harbour authorities and the government completely
off the hook in terms of questions of work safety systems and protection of the Sydney Harbour resource - because no system
can ever really prevent malice. Echoes of worker scapegoating as at the Esso Longford disaster (see below)? What was the source
of this rumour? Was it designed to protect jobs, and economic and political interests associated with the Gore Cove Terminal
by diverting public outrage at the desecration of their beautiful harbour?
The issue of sabotage was further addressed
in 'Tanker valves open up to five weeks' SMH page 3 17th August 1999 (#41). Vague allusions are made to a former crew member
that left the ship five weeks earlier in Saudi Arabia. There is no evidence behind the assertion while there exists a profound
conjunction of vested interests from Government, Shell, ship owners, harbour authorities to scapegoat an unidentified mystery
crew member. This contrasts with the Maritime Union of Australia statement 4th August 1999 (#42) that slack competency standards
for low paid crew of flags of convenience ships means accidents are inevitable as a matter of employer negligence and cost
cutting. Similarly see 'Ships of shame a recurring scandal' Sydney Morning Herald page 4, 6th August 1999 (#43).
Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report released in late February has reported recently and expressly makes no finding as to
sabotage according to the summary of conclusions (#44). The conclusions numbered 3 (no separate design of pump suction from
sea chest), 5 (codes of practice not followed), 6 (no remote monitoring), and 7 (inadequate safety management system) are
suggestive of inadequate practices and ship design while conclusions 4 and 10 regarding misleading sea chest seals and opened
sea chest valves at some time in the past are inconclusive. Theories around incompetence are just as compelling as malice.
FoE submits the speculation over sabotage in the absence of evidence and presence of obvious vested interests is arid
in light of the revelation from Mr Jim Starkey, head of the Australian Institute of Petroleum, and now the ATSB that the shore
staff and crew should have followed the Ship/Shore Safety Check List or presumably other appropriate safety procedures.
the absence of real, categorical contrary evidence of malice FoE submits Shell should be strictly liable for spills. Further
Shell and the ships owner have joint supervisory role of staff over such crucial matters as valves being open and shut before
during and after transfer within a terminal precinct.
D. Shell and the oil industry's dangerous record on safety and
"Sydney harbour has suffered dozens of oil spills in the past 20 years, with Shell forced to pay more than
$200,000 for one of the worst in 1993.
"About ten tonnes of crude oil spilled into the Harbour on July 19 that year
during a routine transfer between storage tanks at its Gore Cove terminal. A 250m slick was created by the spill and, after
months of investigation, Shell was found guilty and fined $42,000 and ordered to pay $7,682 in costs.
"It was also
forced to spend $160,000 on the clean up operation.
"Since then a raft of maritime safety measures and fines of up to
$1 million were introduced to encourage greater care."
- 'History of errors on our waterways' Daily Telegraph article,
page 4, August 4 1999 (#45)
"This is not the first time oil has been spilt at Gore Cove. In 1984 about 40 tonnes of crude
oil spilt into the harbour at Gore Cove when a Shell barge pumped 1,900 tonnes of oil into a tank with a capacity of 1,217
tonnes. Shell was found to be negligent and was fined $25,000. In 1993 about 10 tonnes of crude oil spilt into Gore Cove as
it was being transferred from one tank to another, both on land."
- 'Oil spill on the harbour' lead editorial Sydney
Morning Herald 7th August 1999 (#46)
'Shell faces 35 safety charges over refinery'
"Shell Refinery (Australia) has
been charged with breaching Victoria's health and safety laws after an audit of its firefighting facilities last year.
said it had charged Shell with 35 breaches of health and safety laws after the 19 day audit in September and October last
"The company faces seven charges of breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 18 charges under the Dangerous
Goods Act and 10 charges under the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations, WorkCover said in a statement.
said the maximum penalty for breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act was $250,000 a charge and breaches of the Dangerous
Goods Act could bring maximum fines of $40,000 for each charge.
"The case goes before Geelong Magistrates Court for a
preliminary hearing on September ...." [end of extract]
- The Age newspaper 19th August 1999 sourced to AAP news service
In an article by Ben Hills in the Sydney Morning Herald 24th March 1999 (#48) it is revealed that
multinational Exxon Corporation operates a worldwide scheme to suppress evidence of its culpability in disasters, including
last year's Longford gas explosion, documents lodged in the US Federal Court allege."
It is public knowledge now that
Exxon subsidary Esso tried to blame worker error but is now itself facing charges for the death of workers at the tragic Longford
Relevant public reports of the continuing fallout at Longford attached include:
- 'Esso to face criminal
charges over Longford' AFR page 1, 22nd Sept 1999 (#49)
- 'Longford leaves ugly scars at Esso' AFR page 16, 22nd Sept
- 'Esso faces $9m in fines for gas blast' Australian 22nd Sept 1999 (#51)
- 'Esso faces record list of
charges' Daily Telegraph page 27, 22nd Sept. 1999 (#52).
Does Shell, another multinational, have a similar cover up
system? Certainly Shell are implicated in massive oil pollution issues in places like Nigeria with weaker democratic checks
and balances - see Oil For Nothing Sept 1999 (#53). Shell has used the tactic of hiding behind alternatively the national
or international corporate structure to maintain distance from such scandal's as oil pollution and murder in Nigeria, but
the Exxon approach reported by Ben Hills/Sydney Morning Herald suggests this corporate separation within oil multinationals
The oil industry's lax practices are evident around Australia.
FoE was contacted by Deborah
Metters, Co-ordinator of the Arid Lands Environment Centre in Alice Springs on 18th August and advises "Shell were found guilty
of "causing waste to come in contact with water causing material environmental harm" from a leak in one of their underground
fuel storage tanks less than 1 kilometre from the CBD of Alice Springs in May 1997. Shell was found guilty and fined $75,000
in February 1999."
Another example of dubious behaviour in the oil industry was reported recently here in Sydney:
Botany Council has rapped BP Australia over the knuckles over the means it chose to clean up an oil-contaminated
site. The company simply deposited a metre of landfill over the former terminal site in McPherson Street, Banksmeadow, before
quitting it about a year ago."
- Eastern Suburbs Messenger page 3,10th February 2000 (#54)
E. Bob Carr's "working
harbour" a pre-emptive justification for inevitable future oil spills in Sydney Harbour
Mr Carr has done a dis-service
to Sydney's residents, business generally in Sydney Harbour, and Sydney Harbour's environmental sustainability by attempting
to pre-empt removal of Shell's dangerous Gore Cove terminal.
FoE notes the statement of the editorialist in The Daily
Telegraph of August 5th 1999 under the heading 'A jewel deserving security' as follows:
"Yesterday, Mr Carr was quick
to condemn the spill as "an outrage" promising big fines for the culprits.
But, strangely, Mr Carr ruled out the possibility
of relocating the Shell depot, apparently on the grounds that Sydney was and always has been "a working harbour".
of course, but if the "work" of the harbour carries a demonstrable risk to its survival, such work is called into question.
The harbour also used to have chemical factories on its foreshores, island shipbuilding facilities, even sewage outfalls discharging
into its waters. Those things are no longer there because judgments were made about the appropriateness of such usage.
than dismiss the possibility of relocation, why not investigate the issue thoroughly? Is Mr Carr able to guarantee there will
be no repetition of such an appalling accident? Can he assure us that next time, the oil spill may not be worse? He cannot.
None would disagree that the harbour puts Sydney on the map as one of the world's most alluringly attractive cities.
And next year, we have the opportunity to capitalise on our natural beauty as never before.
Let us ensure right now
we make the most of that chance.
The way to do that is to heed the warning of Tuesday's near-catastrophe. In this, we
expect the Government to show the lead."
- Editorial in The Daily Telegraph 5th August 1999 (#55).
the editorialists sentiment with one qualification: Given the shakeout underway in the refinery industry it may be that the
time is right to close the Gore Cove terminal rather than relocate it.
In relation to the shakeout in the refinery
industry, managers and observers have noted that the refinery business is suffering a financial squeeze from competition in
Asia and that the big four refinery companies BP, Mobil/Exxon, Caltex and Shell are making no money and want to merge if regulators
allow: 'Crude choice for refineries' by John Macleay, resources writer The Australian 17th February 2000 (#56); and 'Mobil's
new owner may close refineries/Exxon oils the knife Australian 14th February 2000 (#57).
Shell for instance has indicated
it wants to close down its Clyde Refinery in Sydney altogether: 'Shell may close Clyde refinery by 2006' Australian Financial
Review 5th November 1999 (#58). In these circumstances it seems highly likely that little money, time and effort will be put
into upkeep, safety and maintenance of Shell's oil transport, oil terminals and refinery operations in Sydney. Morale in the
work force similarly is likely to be low with higher risk of accidents.
In this context FoE strongly supports a professional
safety and environmental assessment of the closure of the Gore Cove terminal given that a shakeout in the refinery and oil
transport business is inevitable. Such an assessment should include consideration of:
a. What benefits would accrue in
risk assessment and environmental quality for the Sydney Harbour in outright closure of Gore Cove?;
b. What environmental
and safety risks would be present for alternative fuel transport systems inevitably involving petro-chemicals?; and
What alternative transport systems and alternative fuel supplies will be available, including change over to renewable energy
sources for industry? What incentives for changeover to renewables are needed?
The slack attitude of Mr Carr to oil pollution
unfortunately sets a tone for the rest of government and business administration of the Harbour. There have been reports of
pollution slicks around July 16, 1999 but no one has taken responsibility or resolved the complaints. It has been reported
that "State agencies refused to acknowledge the diesel slick had occurred" even though "There were several eyewitnesses to
the slick near Mort Bay": 'Earlier fuel spill kept 'kept a secret'' Sunday Telegraph p5 8th August 1999 (#59).
in the case of the Shell/Gore Cove oil spill involving the Laura D'Amato docked oil tanker it is admitted the ships valves
were not inspected by the harbour authorities: 'Spill tanker inspected - but not the valves' Australian 6th August 1999 (#60).
1. Significant environmental damage was caused to bird and marine life and the substrate of Sydney
Harbour by the August 3rd oil slick, with reports of hundreds of native birds poisoned possibly fatally. These effects inevitably
affect tourism and environmental values.
2. Thousands of Sydney-siders, and workers and public either at the terminal
and/or nearby harbour, were poisoned by petro-chemical fumes. Risk of ignition and toxic soot endangering hundreds of peoples
lives has been underestimated or ignored. This suggests a safety audit is urgently needed;
3. Shell and the government
have effectively orchestrated a cover up of Shell's shared liability and the impacts of the oil spill possibly to maintain
employment and businesss interests at Gore Cove terminal. Unfortunately Taronga Zoo is implicated in the government's PR cover-up
4. The government's addiction to secrecy is endangering public safety by failing to provide transparent
explanation of the events of 3rd August 1999 to allow proper planning responses and public consultation to prevent future
5. There is a failure to undertake a thorough legal investigation and prosecution of Shell as terminal
owner and charterer of the Laura D'Amato with unresolved questions as to
a. Failure to date to seize documentary evidence
from Shell re operating manuals, safety procedures, correspondence, their investigation report etc;
b. Why the volume
of the oil spill was under reported for so long?
c. Failure of Shell to effectivley implement the joint Ship/Shore Safety
Checklist and ensure safe operating procedures;
d. What, if any, legal issues prevent release of the Taylor report?;
Apparent non-compliance with the Contaminated Land Management Act and offensive odour regulations;
f. Why the Health Department
and fire authorites including CSIRO were given no role regarding investigation of air pollution threats to public health and
ignition risk respectively?
g. Shell's illegal attempts to prevent FoE access to public land;
h. Shell's joint liability
for competency of chartered ship's crew and safe operations proximate to their terminal;
i. what was the motive for the
highly speculative "sabotage" scapegoat theory?
These matters suggest there is a lack of independence in current regulation
of oil spills and protection of the environment.
6. The saboteur scapegoat theory is unfounded, self serving and wishful
thinking by stakeholders with vested interests. The facts are entirely consistent with negligence in works systems, inadequate
staff training, inadequate ship design, and/or non compliance with existing safety protocols by Shell terminal staff and ship's
7. Shell along with other multinationals in the oil industry are constant offenders against worker safety and
repeatedly cause environmental degradation. They routinely apply huge investment in public relations spin doctoring to cover
their misdeeds in Australia and internationally. The Sydney oil slick and incident at Holden Dock, Yarraville last September
are but two recent examples.
8. Premier Bob Carr's media assertions the Gore Cove oil terminal must stay is grossly
pre-emptive of investigations, reckless with public safety, and if unchallenged will lead to future inevitable oil spills
and maintain an undeserved comfort zone to Shell - a repeat Harbour polluter. FoE supports research and assessment as a foundation
for a short term timetable to close the Gore Cove terminal.