Scots seek strict legal controls to prevent another 'Prestige' disaster

A A A

Fears of an environmental disaster like that caused by the
Prestige sinking off the Spanish coast have prompted calls for tighter controls over ships passing through the narrow channel separating the Western Isles from mainland Scotland.

Fears of an environmental disaster like that caused by the Prestige sinking off the Spanish coast have prompted calls for tighter controls over ships passing through the narrow channel separating the Western Isles from mainland Scotland.

The Minch is one of the richest and most diverse marine wildlife areas in Britain. Its waters are used by several dolphin, porpoise and whale species and is of international importance to many types of birds and a large number of common and grey seals.

The World Wide Fund for Nature believes the Minch and the waters around Orkney and Shetland are of world-class conservation value.

But more than 400 bulk carriers and tankers transporting oil, chemicals and other hazardous materials travel through the Minch each month, passing within a mile of the coast of Skye and through waters only 70ft deep in places – which is only 10ft more than the draught of many tankers. An estimated 20 per cent of all British crude oil traffic passes through the Minch. The route is a favoured one for crews because it can cut 45 miles and three hours off the route west of the Hebrides.

After the sinking of the Prestige and a recent incident off Skye when a nuclear submarine was damaged when it hit the seabed, Highland council is calling for a crackdown on safety regulations.

Many councillors had been warning for years of the potential for environmental catastrophe and the need to restrict movement of shipping in the Minch. They believe the movement of oil tankers and vessels carrying hazardous cargoes must be controlled and policed by coastguards to avoid an incident that could devastate tourism, fishing and fish farming.

Highland council would like to see the right of innocent passage abolished and the Minch become a controlled waterway. To try to achieve its aims, the local authority is to host an international seminar next year of interested countries, including Spain, France, Norway, Sweden and Canada, in an effort to agree an international policy that protects the most vulnerable countries from the threat of a spill.

Bill Fulton, a former shipping agent and councillor for Kyle of Lochalsh and Sleat, said: "The Highlands of Scotland have many small coastal communities, which depend on the sea and on fishing and aquaculture and tourism.

"But we are under threat from oil tankers and other ships carrying dangerous cargoes. Large ships sail through the Minch and the Pentland Firth; both are narrow and dangerous channels.

" Aegean Sea, which sank off Spain in 1992, had passed through the Minch 48 hours earlier, demonstrating that we are facing a common danger.

"We believe more should be done to stop ships carrying dangerous cargoes from using coastal waters where their presence endangers the local economy. The economy of the Highlands could be destroyed in the event of a tanker disaster."

At present, all tankers using the Minch are encouraged to contact coastguards before entering the area to inform the authorities of their details, seek advice on navigating the narrow channel and receive information on any potential shipping hazards. The scheme is voluntary, though, and Highland council fears that the most dangerous ships do not register their presence.

"Any old rust bucket can pass through the Minch at the moment and the vessels which tend to adhere to the voluntary code are the ones which probably present the lowest risk," Mr Fulton said.

"We would like to see a legal requirement whereby the captain would have to tell us what cargo his ship is carrying, where the ship is coming from and where it is going, what flag she operates under and who owns her."

The authorities also estimate that at least 12 per cent of ships using the Minch ignore the safety advice when passing through the mile-wide channel.

Even those that do register their presence often fail to stick to recognised shipping lanes, leading to a big increase in the chance of a collision.

John Farquhar Munro, MSP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West, said: "The recent shipping disaster off Spain has brought home the importance of making certain that we do all we can to protect our fragile coastline." He wants the government to reconsider the guidelines for ships with dangerous cargoes, and their passage past Scotland's coastline.

"Many ships with hazardous cargoes pass by Scotland's coastline every day. Perhaps the time has come to rethink whether this should continue.

"We've already had one major oil spill in recent years when the Braer tanker grounded off Shetland in 1993. Thankfully, extreme weather conditions lessened the impact of the slick. Next time, we might not be so lucky.

"I dread to the think of the consequences of a similar incident in an area such as the Minch. Even a minor spill could have a major impact. The flush of water through the Minch is poor, and it's a very sheltered stretch of sea. It would take years for an oil slick, or another hazardous leak to be dispersed.

"Put simply, the effects of a shipping disaster in the Minch would be catastrophic. It is very likely that the sea farming, scallop fishing and tourism industries would be wiped out. The local beaches would be ruined and colonies of local wildlife would be destroyed."

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil