Oil Leak 20 – The naysers respond

Naysayers, noun: some who opposes something or says no to it. Fair enough.

Following on from Oil Leak 18 and our rebuttal of Mr Buskie’s comments in his “big interview” in Energy North, there is more to say. In response to comments left on said oil leak, in case you don’t know who Mr Buskie is, he is the CEO of Port of Cromarty Firth and from what we can see, the driving force behind this application for ship-to-ship crude oil transfers in the Moray Firth.

Mr Buskie states “What this application does is to change it (STS) from being at the location (Nigg jetty) to within the Port limits. It’s just that the licence didn’t accommodate the way the market moved on.”

Nice spin – facts – the new licence allows transfer of some 8.6 million tonnes of crude oil – thats an 800% increase over current level. This increase in the total amount and a change in location in  from the jetty to locations at sea (in the middle of the Special Area of Conservation) is exactly why the body who issue the licence, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) require a new licence application. If it was just carrying on the same activity as Mr Buskie claims, why on earth would you need a new licence application?

Mr Buskie goes on “And its not that our major statutory stakeholders in this didn’t know that this activity was happening, or could happen, because they actually helped with legislation that occurred in 2010. For us it was a pretty straightforward thing to do, which was to extend the licence – and the only way we could extend it was by applying for a new one, safe in the knowledge that all the bodies that agreed to the change in 2010 created an opportunity for these activities to be carried out in the Port limits.”

Phew! Where do you start – well for “major statutory stakeholders” read “statutory consultees” – RSPB Scotland, SNH, SEPA, Highland Council and Marine Scotland. Yes, the regulations were brought in during 2010 – the last labour government had announced a ban on STS but after lobbying from South East MP’s, the new coalition government pressed on with the 2010 regulations. Yes, they we supported by various NGO’s as it was hoped they would offer environmental safeguards. It  soon became apparent there were flaws in the legislation and concerns were expressed.  Four of Mr Buskies “major statutory stakeholders” had no say in the 2010 regulations – only RSPB were involved. To say that the bodies that agreed to the change in 2010 created an opportunity for these activities to be carried out within Port limits is at best disingenuous. Every scenario was not looked into and in fact, one major failing in 2010 was that no Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was carried which might have identified loopholes in the regulations that would allow crude oil to be transferred in such an environmentally sensitive area as this. It is no co-incidence that 5 out of those 6 bodies that supported the 2010 regulations have objected to this proposal. Mr Buskie didn’t mention that.

Here’s another favourite quote from Mr Buskie:

“But of course what happened was, when we made the application, a whole bunch of stakeholders around the firth saw this was going to be something new and different and was going to cause lots of harm to the environment – which is far from the truth.”

Wait on, how can a “vocal minority” as he referred to us previously (oil leak 18) be a “whole bunch of stakeholders” – that sounds like some truth finally – yes – there were a lot of stakeholders that envisaged a problem – 340 responded to the initial consultation and I’ll bet they were all opposed (we’ll find out for you). That is exactly it – it is something new and different – at the risk of boring you all, it takes the process from the sheltered water of Nigg Jetty and all that associated safety cover to the open sea, with none of that safety cover and bang dead centre in the middle of the bottlenose dolphin feeding and breeding grounds. And yes, it will cause “lots of harm to the environment” – both through the operation of STS transfers and in the event that something goes wrong.

Next one please Mr Buskie:

“I think it’s safe to say that there’s a certain section who just don’t want this under any guise. They just don’t like the idea of oil transfers.”

Wrong. As stated many many times we are perfectly happy for this process to continue at Nigg Jetty. We do not want it in any way shape or form in the open waters of the Inner Moray Firth. In case you think we are a bunch of anti-oil vegans living in a commune in Cromarty – this has never been about the oil industry, this is not what its about – it’s about taking something that was in a relatively safe location and applying a “pile ’em high sell ’em cheap” business model that we don’t like – the wrong plan in the wrong place, simple as that.

More Buskie classics:

“But I guess what we feel aggrieved about is the frightening of people, all the scaremongering that we’re hearing – ‘its going to cause damage, it’s going to be bad for the dolphins, it’s going to be bad for the ecosystem and everything else.'”

And from a Cromarty Rising perspective – what we, the stakeholders feel aggrieved about is that you came up with this ill-considered half-baked plan in the first place – we could have all been doing something constructive for the past year. Still, we now know a lot about ship to ship transfers, the workings of the Port Authority, how to run a media campaign and the impact of oil on bottlenose dolphins. Look at the evidence please – all the experts, all the NGO’s say this is going to be bad for dolphins (not to mention birds, otters, seals, whales and basking sharks) – how can they all be wrong and you be so right – do you have a secret career in cetacean biology that you didn’t put on your CV?

At the end of the day Mr Buskie………

“At the end of the day, the statutory authorities – Marine Scotland, SNH, SEPA, Highland Council and RSPB, who were all consultees in this process – they’re the people that are going to say whether or not there’s going to be a potential risk to anything. And they’re the guys that are going to say, at the end of the day, you will get this application or you won’t.”

At the end of that day that’s incorrect. The statutory consultees can only advise the MCA – the MCA can choose to disregard the opinion of the consultees – they did that quite well in the Scapa Flow application (the subject of another oil leak no doubt). Already, SNH have significant concerns while SEPA and RSPB Scotland have both objected to the proposal. We’ll go into some of those responses in detail in future oil leaks. If Mr Buskie actually believed that, he should save the port some cash and just give up now. We have no confidence that the MCA will make an unbiased decision – we believe they have too close a relationship with the CFPA and Intertek. That’s why we are “scaremongering” and “jumping up and down”. We see this as a very real threat to the future of the environment of the Inner Moray Firth and the communities that depend on it.

More Bukie magic:

“The benefit to the wider Highland economy by doing this and making a success of this more than offsets the naysayers who don’t want it to happen. While I can understand where they’re coming from, the Port has a job here to try and ensure it maximises the utility of the asset in the best interest of the majority, and not just cave into a minority.”

Give me strength! Where is this majority that are in favour of this lunatic plan? Let them speak? Their silence is deafening. Why should the majority that are opposed to this cave in to minority that are promoting it?

Mr Buskie pointed out that there was no obligation to carry out public consultation.

“….there’s no public consultation required in the application, its not as if we’re try to do something cloak and dagger or below the radar.”

Really? – I’ll take you back to 18th December 2015 when the necessary advert was placed in the local paper – you know, one of the official adverts that no reads. The stakeholder community councils were not informed by the Port – they were informed by a member of the community who happened to read the advert. Public consultation is an absolute requirement of the regulations – is Mr Buskie really that blind to the requirement of the legislation? Now to save you all running off and looking up the Merchant Shipping (Ship to Ship Transfers) Regulations 2010, here are the relevant requirements for advertising the application:


  1. the publication, in two successive weeks, of a notice containing the information set out in sub-paragraph (5) in such newspapers or other publications as the Secretary of State considers appropriate, and
  2. (b)  such other steps as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(5) The information referred to in sub-paragraph (4) is—

  1. (a)  the harbour authority’s name and correspondence address;
  2. (b)  a statement that an environmental statement has been submitted in connection with an application for an oil transfer licence and that further information (if any) has been provided to the Secretary of State;
  3. (c)  a description of the proposed cargo transfers, including—
  1. (i)  the types of substances to be transferred;
  2. (ii)  the maximum quantities of each substance to be transferred in any single operation and/or within any specified time period;
  3. (iii)  the anticipated frequency oft ransomers; and
  4. (iv)  the types of ship to be used to carry out the transfers;
  1. (d)  the address of an office of the Secretary of State, or other place nominated by the Secretary of State, at which copies of the application and the further information (if any) may be inspected free of charge at all reasonable hours, within 42 days beginning with the date of publication of the notice;
  2. (e)  the address from which copies of the application and the further information (if any) may be obtained from the Secretary of State and, if a charge is to be made for a copy, the amount (not exceeding a reasonable charge for copying), of the charge; and
  3. (f)  a statement that any person wishing to make representations regarding the application and the further information (if any) should make them in writing to the Secretary of State at an address specified in the notice, within 42 days beginning with the date of publication of the notice.

Its the last line Mr Buskie – ANY person wishing to make representation. Not any statutory consultee – any person – that’s public consultation. Can you really have confidence in someone that has so little understanding of the process they are supposed to be following? Smoke and mirrors.