20 November 2006
Barrett calls on Minister to block ship to ship oil transfer decision
Mr Barrett, whose Edinburgh West constituency includes the Forth Rail Bridge, tabled the motion following the publication of the assessment of oil-spill risks, prepared by consultants for Melbourne Marine Services, the company behind the oil transfer proposals.
The report, obtained through a freedom of information request, has been heavily criticised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and environmental and animal welfare groups for failing to provide sufficient protection to wildlife in the Forth.
Mr Barrett has today tabled a motion in parliament calling for the controversial plans to be blocked if there is any risk to wildlife or habitats around the Forth. The Edinburgh West MP is also arguing for stronger regulations governing similar proposals and stressed the importance of the considering the views of local people.
The final decision on whether to give the controversial plans the go-ahead will be made by Forth Ports, the harbouring authority. The company stands to make at least £6m if the plans for ship-to-ship oil transfer is given the go-ahead.
John Barrett said:
“It is crucial that Forth Ports take into account the whole range of views from experts, environmental groups and from communities around the Forth. Local people will rightly be outraged if they feel a decision has been made based on the views of hired consultants.
“There has been almost universal opposition to these proposals from local people, environmental groups and parliamentarians. Any accident would result in an ecological disaster. The stakes are far too high for us to take any chances.
“I am not opposed to ship to ship oil transfer taking place off Scotland’s coastlines and I recognise the benefits it can bring. However it is blatantly clear that the Firth of Forth is not an appropriate site, given its vital ecological importance.
“It is plainly ridiculous that the final decision as it stands will rest with Forth Ports when they stand to make millions of pounds from the plans. This further underlines the urgent need for proper regulation in this area.
“I hope that this motion will add to the pressure on Forth Ports to see sense on this issue and rule out what is a risky and unnecessary proposal.”
Mr Barrett has today tabled the following Motion in parliament:
Ship to Ship Oil Transfer in the Forth
That this House is extremely concerned at the decision by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to approve the oil spill contingency plan in the Firth of Forth; believes that due to the ecologically sensitive nature of the Forth, plans for ship to ship oil transfer should not be granted approval; notes that complaints have been lodged with the European Commission, which is investigating the legality of the ship-to-ship oil plan; notes that a major spillage would kill wildlife, pollute beaches and damage tourism; recognises that the plan has provoked widespread condemnation from local communities, including local authorities, environmental groups and parliamentarians; notes the absence of a coherent regulatory framework for ship to ship oil transfer in the Forth; calls on the Government as a matter of urgency to ensure that ship-to-ship transfers of oil in the Firth of Forth are subject to an open and accountable consenting regime and a coherent regulatory framework which both comply with the Habitats Directive; and calls for a strategic assessment of the national need for this activity and how it can be delivered without damage to communities and the environment.