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Australian government boosts levy to cover Queensland cleanup costs

Australian government boosts levy to cover Queensland cleanup costs

Sydney: Australian Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday announced that the government would temporarily increase the Protection of the Sea Levy, to recover the clean-up costs of the Pacific Adventurer oil spill last March, writes AAP. The levy increase, expected to start from April 1, will  see a three cent addition per net registered tonne, bringing it to 14.25 cents.

On March 11, 2009, the Pacific Adventurer (pictured) was damaged in rough seas whipped up by Cyclone Hamish, resulting in a 270,000 litre fuel oil spill along Queensland's pristine southern beaches.

Albanese said the move was flagged in August last year, when Pacific Adventurer owners Swire Shipping agreed to pay $25 million for compensation claims arising from the oil spill. "Although the payment agreed was in excess of the company's legal obligations, it was below the actual cost of the clean-up, estimated to be $31 million," the minister said in a statement. "Taxpayers should not have to bear the additional costs of the clean-up. In accordance with the polluter-pays principle, we are increasing the Protection of the Sea Levy by a small amount until the clean-up costs have been met."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is to reimburse the Queensland government for the shortfall. A court-administered limitation fund has already been established for the valid private claims for compensation, as well as some of the clean-up costs.

The step was taken because the liability limit in the International Maritime Organisation's 1996 Convention was too low to cover the actual costs of the clean-up. Albanese said the government believed the international liability limit on merchant vessels should be lifted, and had put the issue on the International Maritime Organisation's agenda this year. The Protection of the Sea Levy applies to vessels 24 metres or more long, with 10 tonnes or more oil as fuel or cargo.  [19/02/10]