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
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>firstname.lastname@example.org / Juliet.Swong>anong>email@example.com
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