Lazarowicz to introduce bill on ship-to-ship oil transfers

SCOTTISH MP Mark Lazarowicz is to introduce a bill to tighten up the regulation of ship-to-ship oil transfers around the UK following a row over plans to conduct them in the Firth of Forth.

Responsibility for authorising applications is currently split between port authorities, local councils, the UK-wide coastguard and maritime agency and environment agencies.

New powers enabling Scottish ministers to freeze plans for transfers in the Forth were approved by Holyrood earlier this year.

However, shipping laws are reserved to Westminster and Mr Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, intends to introduce a private members' bill to simplify the legislation.

It is hoped the new powers would complement the moves already made by the Scottish Parliament.

If he gets government and opposition support, his Environmental Protection (Transfers at Sea) Bill, which is backed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, has a reasonable chance of becoming law.

The Labour MP said: "The recent controversy surrounding ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Firth of Forth has highlighted the need for more effective regulation of ship-to-ship transfers.

"My bill aims to ensure that the whole marine environment is protected from this practice and that ship-to-ship transfers are only carried out where they can be done safely.

"I know this is an issue which the UK government have been consulting on and I hope the government will give this bill a positive response."

Proposals to transfer around 7.8 million tonnes of Russian crude oil each year between ships anchored four miles off the coast in the Firth of Forth have outraged environmentalists.