RSPB briefing to provide an update on the proposed ship-to-ship oil ...

RSPB briefing to provide an update on the proposed ship-to-ship oil ...

ong>RSPBong> Scotlong>anong>d Parliamentary Briefing

Ship-ong>toong>-ship oil trong>anong>sfers in the Firth of Forth

• The Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) recent approval of oil spill plong>anong>s covering ship-ong>toong>-ship

(STS) trong>anong>sfers of oil in the Firth of Forth is conditional on full assessment of the project itself by Forth

Ports – who now bear responsibility for UK authorities’ compliong>anong>ce with the EU Habitats Directive.

• The required assessment must be done in accordong>anong>ce with tests set out in Europeong>anong> law but the data ong>toong>

meet these tests do not exist. Forth Ports are in consultation with SNH in carrying out the assessment.

They wish comments from SNH quickly - but a rapid decision ong>toong> consent could be in breach of EU law.

• It is not clear where responsibilities lie between UK Government, Scottish Ministers ong>anong>d harbour

authorities in the event of a complaint being made ong>toong> the Europeong>anong> Commission – since ministers lack

powers ong>toong> “call in” consents in harbour areas.

• New UK regulations are likely ong>toong> confine commercial ship-ong>toong>-ship trong>anong>sfers ong>toong> harbour authority areas,

without regulating the process further within them 1 – this would miss the opportunity ong>toong> clarify

harbour authorities’ general duties under UK regulations with regard ong>toong> Europeong>anong> Wildlife Sites ong>anong>d

ship-ong>toong>-ship trong>anong>sfers.


Melbourne Marine Shipping applied in 2005 ong>toong> Forth Ports plc 2 for permission ong>toong> carry out ong>anong> unspecified

programme of commercial ship-ong>toong>-ship oil trong>anong>sfers (STS) in the Firth of Forth. This would increase the risk

of oil spill for the whole Firth ong>anong>d all its wildlife by creating a new focus for oil activity, affecting areas

currently at low risk, including importong>anong>t concentrations of birds.

MCA consulted the public from February ong>toong> May 2006 on oil spill plong>anong> chong>anong>ges ong>toong> cover STS. They

reported on July 14 on amendments they required ong>toong> be made ong>toong> the plong>anong>s ong>anong>d on the implications of the

plong>anong>s for Europeong>anong> Wildlife Sites. Chong>anong>ges were made ong>anong>d MCA gave final approval ong>toong> the plong>anong>s on 25


The decision ong>toong> consent rests with Forth Ports plc’s board ong>anong>d is unlikely ong>toong> require confirmation by

Scottish Ministers or UK Government. Forth Ports may consult on a restricted basis a revised

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) ong>anong>d a new oil spill risk assessment, but it is not clear with whom

or at what stage in the process.

STS is not covered by the EIA or Strategic Environmental Assessment Directives – no-one has taken a

strategic approach ong>toong> determine the national need for STS or how this might best be met.


• Scottish ong>anong>d UK Ministers must now do everything possible ong>toong> ensure that Forth Ports secure

compliong>anong>ce with the Habitats Directive in considering STS proposals – ong>anong>d (in view of the high

level of public interest) that they do so trong>anong>sparently ong>anong>d in consultation with the public.

• In the longer term, ensure that harbour authorities are more clearly accountable ong>toong> the public for

their environmental responsibilities ong>anong>d in carrying out their statuong>toong>ry functions. This could be

addressed in part by: marine spatial plong>anong>ning elements of marine bills for the UK ong>anong>d Scotlong>anong>d;

clearer trong>anong>sposition of the Habitats Directive ong>toong> consents in harbour areas; allowing ministers

similar powers ong>toong> “call in” harbours decisions as those that exist for consents by local authorities or

SEPA; review of the relevong>anong>t schedules of Freedom of Information Acts.

1 Letter from SoS for Trong>anong>sport ong>toong> Deputy Minister for Environment & Rural Development April 2006; ong>anong>d letter from Minister of

State for Trong>anong>sport ong>toong> constituency MPs, May 2006.

2 In their capacity as harbour authority for the Firth of Forth.

For further information please contact:

Richard Evong>anong>s, Sites Policy Officer / Juliet Swong>anong>n, Advocacy Co-ordinaong>toong>r

ong>RSPBong> Scotlong>anong>d, 25 Ravelsong>toong>n Terrace, Edinburgh EH4 3TP Tel: 0131 311 6500 Fax: 0131 311 6569

Email: Richard.Evong>anong> / Juliet.Swong>anong>

Registered Charity Number: 207076 – 26 th September 2006

ong>RSPBong> Scotlong>anong>d is part of the ong>RSPBong>, the UK-wide charity working ong>toong> secure a healthy environment for birds ong>anong>d

wildlife, helping ong>toong> create a better world for us all.

For information, the regulaong>toong>ry framework around ship-ong>toong>-ship oil trong>anong>sfers includes the


The Conservation (Natural habitats &c.) Regulations 1994: Competent authorities are bound by

regulation 3(4) general duty ong>toong> “have regard ong>toong> requirements of the Habitats Directive” ong>anong>d 3(3)

ong>toong> “secure compliong>anong>ce with the Habitats Directive” in relation ong>toong> marine areas.

The Merchong>anong>t Shipping (Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response & Co-operation Convention)

Regulations 1998: Harbour Authority ong>anong>d Maritime & Coastguard Agency must agree revisions

ong>toong> oil spill contingency plong>anong>.

Forth Ports Byelaws: made under powers given by the Forth Ports Authority Orders (ong>anong>d their

Confirmation Acts) 1969 & 1980. Individual trong>anong>sfers (eg in emergency) require the consent of the

harbourmaster (byelaw 38, 39). The harbourmaster may issue Directions ong>toong> mariners (eg ong>toong>

identify ong>anong>chorages ong>anong>d specify ship movements in relation ong>toong> these). Chong>anong>ges ong>toong> byelaws

require the confirmation of Scottish Ministers.

Environmental Impact Assessment/Strategic Environmental Assessment EU Directives: do not

cover STS – so, neither do UK/Scotlong>anong>d regulations

Harbours Act 1964: Leaves it up ong>toong> the harbour authority ong>toong> determine whether they require a

Harbour Revision Order (from Scottish Ministers)

Merchong>anong>t Shipping Act 1995: S130 permits Secretary of State for Trong>anong>sport ong>toong> regulate STS.

Freedom of Information (Scotlong>anong>d) Act 2002: Harbour Authorities not on Schedule 1.

Scotlong>anong>d Act 1998: “Ports” devolved, “shipping” reserved. Oil pollution ong>anong>d safety within ports

is “shipping”.

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