Letter: Shetland disaster: tanker controls, safety at sea, UK fleet's decline

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Sir: This trust has been campaigning for nearly eight years to have restrictions placed on shipping - particularly large oil tankers - in coastal waters or anywhere near the British Isles where there is a risk of oil spills.

The Government has claimed that it can do nothing in international waters, even though it appears that through the International Maritime Organisation something could be done. The last thing we wanted was to be proved right, but perhaps this disaster on Shetland will at last make ministers wake up and take action.

Under the Zetland County Council Act, the authorities on Shetland have been able to make rules that control cowboy operators - when they have been identified, the facts are put on the Sullom Voe computer and they may not be allowed into the terminal. No tankers going to Sullom Voe are admitted to the coastal waters of Shetland until they have been given permission by the harbour master.

What we believe is wanted is international agreement extending this sort of control to prohibit all tankers from taking routes between islands and the mainland unless their destination lies along the route, and to bar all old tankers of outdated design (eg single skin hulls) from passage through our coastal waters - excepting possibly the English Channel where it might be difficult to agree or enforce.

Why was the Braer going between Shetland and Fair Isle anyway? There is evidence that tankers go through the Minch between the Outer and Inner Hebrides because the television reception is better - it is to be hoped that this was not the reason.

Yours faithfully,



The Scottish Scenic Trust



6 January