WWF report says Firth of Forth faces new oil disaster threat Published: 15 February, 2006
WWF Scotland is calling for a Marine Act for Scotland to be drawn up in parallel with the UK Marine Act, in a bid to protect the country’s coastline.
Ten years on from the Sea Empress disaster, one of the world’s worst oil spills, an independent report commissioned by WWF has found that the UK coastline is still at threat. It says the Firth of Forth is at particular threat because it has been proposed as a site for ship to ship transfer of crude oil from Russia.
The report, ‘An overview of shipping activities in UK waters’, highlights that while many lessons have been learned from the Sea Empress grounding, one key issue remains outstanding: the presence of an emergency towing vessel to cover the Irish Sea.
However, of more concern to WWF is the conclusion that it could happen again.
“Three of the world’s worst oil tanker spills happened in UK waters. The ingredients are still present around the UK coast for another oil tanker incident,” said Claire Pescod, WWF Scotland marine policy officer.
“There are over 300 pollution reports each year that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency deal with, one of the latest being the sinking of the chemical tanker, the Ece, earlier this year. Significant efforts have been made since the Sea Empress grounding to prevent another disaster but we can’t be complacent. The UK needs to regularly assess new threats and create contingency plans. This report highlights the gap between the threats and the protection our marine environment needs.”
Of particular threat is the expanding export of Russian heavy crude oil which transits through UK waters on its way to markets in the Far East and India, and is set to continue to rise for the next five years. The oil is shuttled from ports in the Baltic and Barents Seas to large 250,000 tonne tankers to continue its journey.
WWF Scotland is calling for a Marine Act for Scotland to be drawn up in parallel with the UK Marine Act. It says the report highlights the need for an approach that puts ecosystems at the heart of planning and management decisions.
“This means effective, co-ordinated management of coasts and seas that protects important marine areas as well livelihoods that are dependent upon its well being,” a statement issued today said.
Yesterday, Scottish Green MSPs urged the UK Shipping Minister Alistair Darling to call off his support for the controversial ‘ship-to-ship’ oil transfer proposal which, they say, would increase the threat to those same areas.
www.fishupdate.com is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish European Fish Trader, Fishing Monthly, Fish Farming Today, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.