I wish to inform the House of the outcome of the review of the ‘Merchant Shipping (ship-to-ship transfers) Regulations 2010’.
On 8 July (2010), I announced the review of the regulations and I asked all interested parties to make representations to me by 30 September. On the same day, I also laid a Statutory Instrument - the ‘Merchant Shipping (ship-to-ship transfers) (amendment) Regulations 2010’ - before the House, in order to defer the coming into force date of the regulations from 1 October 2010 until 1 April 2011.
During the period of the review, from 8 July to 30 September inclusive, I received 32 written representations and held three meetings with interested parties at their request.
In considering these representations, I have been left in no doubt that this is an important issue - not only for the shipping companies who benefit from these practices, but equally for local residents who have concerns about the potential impact of any accident on their coastline. In deciding how best to proceed, it has been necessary to strike a balance between ensuring that these operations are properly regulated, while recognising the benefits of ship-to-ship transfer.
On the basis of the written representations and the points made to me in meetings conducted in the context of the review, I have drawn the following conclusions:
- I intend to change the policy on ship-to-ship transfers outside harbour authority areas - instead of a general prohibition, there will be a regime which will:
- restrict ship-to-ship transfers outside harbour authority areas to a single designated area within the UK Territorial Sea
- establish a system of permits issued by the MCA
- give effect at the same time to the new chapter 8 of Annex I to the MARPOL convention
- I intend to maintain, without change, the policy of requiring oil transfer licences for harbour authorities - harbour authorities which already have a history of hosting ship-to-ship transfers will, of course, continue to benefit from transitional arrangements
- I shall also take account, in reshaping the policy, of some specific instances where a type of ship or a type of activity needs to be treated in a way which departs from the general rules, or where the application of the rules needs to be adjusted to allow normal harbour activities to continue unhindered
The department’s officials will now proceed to draft the necessary amending legislation, on the basis which I have described. I shall be taking a keen interest in the progress which they make.
I will be placing an analytical table, which summarises the points of substance made in the written representations and the meetings held with interested parties, on the department’s website and in the Libraries of the House.