Smith Concern On Ship To Ship Oil Transfer

06 July 2010
SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has today written to Forth Ports Chief Executive Charles Hammond asking for a meeting with him to discuss rumours that Forth Ports hopes to revisit ship to ship oil transfer in the Firth of Forth.
A consultation is underway by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on proposed new regulations which purport to bring ship to ship oil transfer into a new statutory footing, but both East Lothian and Fife Council have objected to the consultation on the basis that only options which will in fact facilitate ship to ship oil transfer have been considered.  Ship to ship oil transfers are banned throughout Scandinavia.
Smith was active on this issue when it was initially raised three years ago, and has not changed his position.  There are appropriate settings for ship to ship oil transfer, such as Sullom Voe where it has been carried out for years, but the Firth of Forth is too ecologically sensitive and too important for the economy of East Lothian and Fife in particular.
Smith said:
"This is a curious tale, and I always suspected we had not seen the last of the idea.  While on the face of it a new law to regulate ship to ship oil transfers is appealing, I fear we're being sold a pup, and the aim of the consultation is to facilitate transfers not to slow them down.
"I'm personally not against ship to ship on any ideological grounds, where it is necessary or sensible to perform such transfers then so long as they are tightly regulated then I'm not against them on principle.  But the Firth of Forth is sensitive, and economically important, and I remain unconvinced that this set of rules will do anything other than open the door to transfers.
"The European situation has not changed, the Habitats Directive remains very much in place and I suspect no amount of tweaking of the rules will get past the fact that such transfers in such a sensitive site will breach EU rules.  One need only look over the water to the Gulf of Mexico to see that we cannot leave such matters solely in the hands of the industry, the public interest demands tough regulation, if not an outright ban so we can nail this once and for all.
"I have asked to meet with Charles Hammond in order to keep channels open.  I want to help Scottish businesses do well and have worked with Forth Ports on other issues in the past.  Even on Ship to Ship we were able to keep channels open, even if we had very different views on the matter.  I would be very keen to discuss what Forth Ports plans actually are for these new rules, and then see where we agree or disagree."