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Caithness News Bulletins July 2005

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Councillors are to seek a meeting with new Shipping Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman MP to renew their call for tough new measures to safeguard the environment from a shipping accident around the shores of the Western Isles and Highland. The Tanker Traffic in the Minch Working Group, comprising members of The Highland Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, want to advise the Minister of the action they believe needs to be taken by the UK Government to prevent a disaster from a major oil spillage from tankers in such a vulnerable and sensitive environment.

They want to see: -

  •  A new and extended deep water route established for all tanker traffic further west of the Western Isles.

  • an upgrade of the status of existing routes from recommended to mandatory;

  • the strengthening of the current voluntary reporting in the Minches to mandatory, with additional reporting at key points;

  • Improved navigational aids and reporting mechanisms;

  • The mandatory fitting of emergency towing gear on vessels to allow tug escorting and intervention;

  • The identification of safe havens where "casualty" vessels could be towed to following an incident;

  • The adoption of a network of Automatic Identification System base stations to strengthen Stornoway Coastguard's prior information of ships planning to transit the Minches;

  •  Improved coverage of paper charts to remove poor overlaps at a key part of the Minches' passage.

The Group accepts it is going to be very difficult to implement the suspension of the Right of Innocent Passage in the Minches and to insist that all vessels have a pilot on board while transiting the Minches but want to keep these options in reserve if the above measures do not sufficiently control and manage the Minches.

The Highland Council is led on the Working Group by long-standing campaigners Councillor Michael Foxley, Vice-Convener, and Kyle Councillor Bill Fulton.

Councillor Foxley said: "We are anxious to maintain the momentum on this long-running campaign and our next step is to seek a meeting with, Stephen Ladyman, the new Minister of State for Transport with special responsibility for shipping. We have identified an action plan, which we believe is crucial if we are to make our vulnerable waters as safe as they can be."

Councillor Fulton, who chaired the most recent meeting of the Group said: "For many years now we have been highlighting the lack of adequate control of movements around our shores. The consequences of a major spillage for the marine environment and our coastal communities would be catastrophic. Our priority is now to seek a meeting with the new Shipping Minister to press the case for early action."

A Few Reasons Why This Is So Important to Caithness and- Highlands & Islands
Ascania Grounded At Caithness
The Braer Disaster In Shetland
Video of the Braer
Prestige Disaster
Jambo Leaking Fuel 2003
Sea Coast In Sutherland Biodiversity Plan
Major British Oil Spills At Sea

A few more facts from British Marine Life Study Society
Oil Spilled:
Amococ Cadiz (Brittany, 1978)             223,000 tonnes
Torrey Canyon (Scilly Isles, 1967)        117,000 tonnes
Braer (Shetland Isles,  1993)             84,000 tonnes
Sea Empress (S W Wales, 1996)             71,800 tonnes
Erika (North Biscay, 1999)                26,000 tonnes    
Oiled Birds:
Amoco Cadiz        N/K          Estimate  25,000+
Torrey Canyon     7879          Estimate  25,000+
Braer             1784          Estimate   6,500+
Sea Empress       7080          Estimate  17,000+
Esso Bernicia     2338+         Estimate   4,000+
Erika                           Estimate  21,000+