Letter: Tanker safety lessons sought

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The Independent Online
Sir: I cannot accept the assertion that the safety of tanker design has been ignored ("Supertankers heading for the rocks", Letters, 12 February). The International Maritime Organisation has a constant programme to develop and maintain regulations on tanker design and the Marine Safety Agency of my department plays an active role in this work. Tanker design and construction were also considered by Lord Donaldson's wide-ranging inquiry into safety at sea and the prevention of pollution from merchant shipping.

It is not true to say that the report of the investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), into the Sea Empress will be "hushed up". The MAIB, established by Parliament as an independent, investigating authority, has an excellent reputation for thorough, impartial and authoritative investigations.

The purpose of the MAIB's investigation is to establish the causes and circumstances of the tanker's grounding, to investigate the subsequent salvage operations and to make recommendations where appropriate. The MAIB report will be published once the consultation process, required by law, has been completed.

Unlike your correspondents, I have no wish to pre-empt this process of investigation by speculation. The Government's only interest is to ensure that the facts are established and all the lessons learnt.

Viscount GOSCHEN

Minister for Aviation and Shipping

Department of Transport

London SW1