Seas around Ireland and Britain fourth most hazardous for ships

The waters around Ireland and Britain are among the most dangerous in terms of shipping accidents, says conservation group, WWF.

There were 135 reported accidents in the shipping lanes around Ireland, Britain, the North Sea and the Bay of Biscay between 1999 and 2011.

The area was the fourth worst, with incidents including fires, collisions and leakage of toxic waste.

WWF said the North Sea was one of the most intensively sailed seas, with more than 120,000 ship movements every year. The South China Sea and East Indies, east Mediterranean and Black Sea were also danger hotspots for ships.

WWF’s marine manager, Dr Simon Walmsley, said: “Shipping lanes around the UK are already some of the world’s busiest and will get busier as the global fleet expands. The risk of accidents and environmental disaster is only going to increase, so efforts must be made to lower the risk. Unfortunately, in the past we’ve seen that it is only after a major accident that safety and environment measures are reviewed. That needs to change, if we want to maintain healthy seas.”

Released ahead of World Oceans’ Day tomorrow, the three areas with the most shipping accidents between 1999 and 2011 were the South China Sea and East Indies, the east Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

In that period, there were 293 shipping accidents in the South China Sea and East Indies, home to 76% of the world’s coral species.

WWF said fishing vessels accounted for nearly a quarter of the vessels lost at sea, but general cargo ships accounted for more than 40%.

Dr Walmsley said: “We really want to see the shipping industry promote greater owner and operator responsibility, and encourage owners to register with better flag states, the country which a vessel is registered to. Additionally, irresponsible and badly-performing owners and countries need to be exposed, in order to motivate them to significantly increase their standards, which will decrease the number of accidents we see still occurring today.”

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