Oil Leak 17 top ten lies and half truths

We weren’t going to issue this for a while but today’s P&J article sent us over the edge.

  1. “Local communities against the application remain in the minority…..”.
    This is not even a half truth – its an outright lie. Cromarty and District Community Council have spent several weeks canvassing the opinion of communities with a marine border on the Cromarty Firth, Moray Firth and Dornoch Firth – all of which will be impacted by this application. So far, 23 communities have stated their opposition to this application. Only one, Invergordon, has stated that they are in favour. Even if you look at the communities of the Cromarty Firth that the port authority choose to recognise, five have stated their opposition and only one in favour and 3 have said nothing. Since when was that a minority? The map is here for all to see:
  2. “Ship to ship oil transfers have gone on safely in the Cromarty Firth for 30 years” – a classic example of distortion of the facts – actually ship to ship oil transfers have gone on safely at Nigg Terminal Jetty for 30 years. They have never been carried out in the open sea, off the sutors, slap bang in the middle of where the bottlenose dolphins live, feed and breed.
  3. “We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously” – great, prove it! If they did then they wouldn’t even be thinking about this. There’s not much more to say about that – working towards ISO14001 or employing graduate environmental co-ordinate doesn’t mean they actually care or have the first understanding of their responsibilities. It’s easy to say, its another thing to put in practise.
  4. The Merchant Shipping (ship to ship transfers) regulations 2010 ensure ship to ship oil transfer operations are properly monitored and regulated. This change in regulations was supported by RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, National Trust for Scotland, The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Conservation Trust and the Marine Conservation Society.” A classic diversion made to sound like these organisations support STS! The regulations referred to are just that, regulations, slipped through without full parliamentary scrutiny – if STS was properly regulated then we wouldn’t even be having this ridiculous debate about crude oil transfers being allowed in the middle of a Special Area of Conservation. Does anyone really think that is a good idea? As for the aforementioned organisations, with the exception of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Conservation Trust, they have all OBJECTED to this proposal (along with many others!). It doesn’t tell you that in the Port’s glossy STS update brochure.
  5. “Oil companies, ship owners and governments would not allow ship-to-ship operation to go ahead if there was any significant threat to the environment or their reputation.” Great – when is the Scottish Government going to step up to the mark and save their reputation? The Ship Owners Club seems to be concerned about the increasing number of STS related collisions and pollution incidents relating to STS on a worldwide basis. Oil companies pollute our seas day in day out – they do not care. Governments allow them to do it – go look at what is happening in Nigeria, North Dakota or the Alberta Tar Sands – the list is literally endless. However, this is not a fight about the ethics of oil, purely about STS at sea in the Moray Firth
  6. “Their (the STS anchorages) locations would not impact any known wrecks or debris from the Port’s treasures naval heritage (including the MV Shelbrit 1)” – complete tosh. One of the anchorages is within 200m of the MV Shelbrit 1 – lost in 1940 with 21 men. Incidentally, it was a merchant navy vessel with a single gunner on board. Think about it – these tankers are 250m or more long, with hundreds of metres of heavy anchor chain required to hold them in place. The chains arc and rotate on the seabed annihilating anything in their path. The port haven’t even conducted a hydrographic survey. Hope there’s no mines left there – they never wash up locally do they?
  7. “The strategic location next to North Sea oil fields, the natural depth of the harbour, the in-house experience of dealing with ship-to-ship transfers and the Port’s excellent safety record l point towards it being an ideal location for ship-to-ship operations to occur” – this one should get the prize for getting the most misleading comments in one sentence. The ship to ship oil transfer regulation came into force because of the amount of oil coming out the Baltic states. The Baltic Sea has a shallow entrance, meaning only shallow draft tankers can get in and out. Economy of scale dictates that they need to transfer to larger tankers. What has that got to do with being strategically located next to the North Sea oil fields? The natural depth of the harbour – yes the main channel is over 50m deep but that’s not where STS is being proposed – these anchorages are mainly between 13-18m deep, with 18a being 22m. The draught of the last tanker that came in was 15m and draughts of these tankers can be easily over 20m – anyone see a problem that the Port may have missed? The in-house experience, with the exemption of the pilots, all belongs to the Wood Group staff at Nigg Terminal. They have handled STS transfers at the jetty for the last 30 years. They will not be involved in the transfers at sea. They run the risk of losing their jobs. The Port Authority actually have no experience whatsoever of doing the transfers. So lets see, a Liberian tanker, transfers to Panamanian mother ship, supervised by a Port Authority with no experience, in the middle of a highly protected area near some very big cliffs. That going to end well isn’t it?
  8. “Ship to ship transfers can take place safely in sensitive areas – Orkney Islands Council have approved ship-to-ship operation in Scapa Flow for many years and this is a sensitive, almost enclosed, area of water”.  Many years, no – their licence was awarded in 2014/2015! They’ve hardly carried out any transfers either due to the oil price crash. There are issues with the sensitivity of Scapa Flow, however the one crucial difference is they are not sitting in the middle of the Special Area of Conservation for the only resident bottlenose dolphins in Scotland. There are significant concerns in Scapa Flow which have been brushed aside by the MCA. Once they’ve done a few 100 transfers of crude oil without issue then we might accept this argument.
  9. “The Port of Cromarty Firth has decided to comply with the IMO’s new Ballast Water Convention for oil tankers visiting the Firth…………..The Port of Cromarty Firth will have responsibility for checking the record books of ships visiting the firth.” Really? In what way does that show compliance? Records can and are faked – talk to the families of the 12,000 dead cholera victims in Brazil – a disease brought there from Africa in ballast water. The new convention will not be fully implemented for a number of years – probably 2025 by the time ships will be fitted with the necessary treatment apparatus. Even then it is not likely to be fully effective as the results will depend on which system is used. At least at Nigg they actually test the ballast water before it was allowed to be discharged and also have treatment facilities. With an upgrade they could be fully compliant or even have facilities to recycle ballast water. Why not just do it at Nigg? Oh yes, because the Port can’t undercut their competitors by a two thirds if they do it in a safe environment.
  10. “For forty years the Port has managed environmental sustainability and economic growth. We live in a rural area where people rely on both wildlife and industry for jobs. The two must work hand in hand if the community is to have a sustainable future. The Port continue to demonstrate they can.” Actually the Port continue to demonstrate they couldn’t care less about our wildlife or the jobs that depend on it. They don’t understand the concept of sustainability – several definitions are out there but here’s the original – “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The operation of STS will impact the marine environment, a spill will have catastrophic consequences – how does that allow future generations to meet their own needs. How many primary school kids would tell you they’d rather have progress over dolphins? How does it show that the port are working hand in hand with the community?