Pollution hearings will not consider blame for 'Braer'

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The Independent Online
THE MARINE pollution inquiry set up by the Government after the Shetland oil disaster will not seek to blame anyone for what happened, Lord Donaldson, the chairman, said yesterday.

Instead it will look at the broader question of pollution from merchant ships around the coasts of Britain and suggest measures to prevent incidents such as the oil spill from the tanker Braer.

At a preliminary hearing in London, Lord Donaldson said: 'There has been a certain amount of misunderstanding as to what this inquiry is all about. It is not, and I would like to stress this, an inquiry into the Braer incident.'

He said there were three other inquiries into the wrecking of the Braer being conducted by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, the Liberian government and the Secretary of State for Scotland's ecological steering group. 'Our terms of reference are to advise on whether any further measures are appropriate and feasible to protect the UK coastline from merchant shipping.

'I am fairly certain that the UK has the longest and most vulnerable coastline in Europe. We live on what is the marine equivalent of a service station in the middle of a set of marine motorways.

'Let me emphasise that because we are looking to the future no one is in the dock, no one is being accused of anything.'

Lord Donaldson, the former Master of the Rolls, is being helped by two assessors; Professor Alastair McIntyre, Professor of Fisheries and Oceanography at Aberdeen University, and John Rendle, a former managing director of Shell Tankers (UK).

Oil and other potentially dangerous cargoes carried off Britain's coasts will be examined. The inquiry will look at how spillages arise and what practical steps could be taken to prevent them and to minimise their effects.

The routeing of vessels, their structure, design and maintenance, the way they are operated, the training of crews, national and international legislation and the questions of compensation and salvage will all be looked at.

Written submissions should be sent in by the end of February, but public hearings are unlikely to start before April. These will mostly be in London, though Lord Donaldson and his colleagues will visit the Shetland Islands.