By Nigel Gladstone, 22 July 2015

Greenwich residents say their health is at risk from the sulphur dioxide emissions of tankers at Gore Bay.

And while the EPA wants to limit these emissions at cruise ship terminals, the new laws don’t cover commercial shipping.

Greenwich resident and medical researcher Dr Liz Gill said the maximum level of sulphur used in marine fuel oil when burnt in enclosed waterways like Sydney Harbour is 0.1 per cent in Europe but NSW allows up to 35 times that level.

“The public health impacts associated with these emissions are just as significant for those living adjacent to non-cruise ship port facilities berthing large commercial vessels as they are for those living adjacent to port facilities berthing cruise vessels,” she said.

Greenwich Community Association spokeswoman Meredith Southwood said there was no logical reason for the split.

“We (GCA) are very disappointed the draft regulations will not include tankers at Gore Bay when the issues we face are the same as people in White Bay and those at Circular Quay,” Ms Southwood said.

Gore Bay Terminal provides almost half of all fuel used in NSW and predates construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Fuel products are transferred from Gore Bay Terminal via an existing pipeline to the Clyde Terminal in Rosehill, where they are stored and then distributed by road tankers.

Gore Bay Terminal manager James Crowden said all vessels use low sulphur marine diesel fuel at their port and no vessel burnt heavy fuel oil while moored there.

“This is a practice that Viva Energy has voluntarily undertaken for chartered tankers moored at Gore Bay for a number of years,” Mr Crowden said.

The bunker barge used the same diesel fuel as cars with a sulphur content of only 0.001 per cent, he said.

“We’re proud of Gore Bay’s environmental, operational and safety performance and we continue to work closely with regulators, government departments and our local community who expect our operations to run safely, efficiently and reliably.”

But Ms Southwood said regulation was necessary to make certain this happened.

“Viva does say they are using lower sulphur levels but that depends entirely on the good will of the people operating the terminal at the time,” Ms Southwood said.

Friends of Gore Bay President Penny Mabbutt said Australia lags behind Europe and North America when it comes to setting standards for exposure to air pollution from ships.

“Any verbal promises from operators that they use low sulphur fuels must be supported by regulation and monitoring,” Ms Mabbutt said.

“Why should we settle for anything less than worlds’ best practice when housing is adjacent to the Viva terminal with no buffer zone and large commercial vessels come right into Gore Bay?”

The EPA said the NSW Government has proposed changes to make cruise ships use low sulphur fuel to reduce the health impacts of particle and sulphur dioxide emissions.

“An initial focus on cruise ships is appropriate given their contribution to shipping emissions, high power and fuel usage at berth, and proximity to local residents,” an EPA spokeswoman said.

“A review of emissions from other shipping types is underway and recommendations made to the (NSW) Government by the end of 2015.”

For more information about Gore Bay Terminal visit Viva Energy’s website: vivaenergy.com.au.

Extracted in full from the Daily Telegraph.