I wish to inform the House of a further development concerning the government’s legislation to regulate ship-to-ship transfers of oil carried as cargo.
As I explained in my written ministerial statement on 30 March, amending regulations have been drafted, and work is in train to ensure that these amending regulations take account of representations made - including representations arising from an extension, over the period 9 February to 10 March 2011, of the review of the Merchant Shipping (Ship-to-Ship Transfers) Regulations 2010 for the benefit of Suffolk residents and bodies.
The conclusion which I drew from the main review which was carried out in July-September 2010 was that the provisions prohibiting all ship-to-ship transfers outside harbour authority areas will be replaced by provisions restricting ship-to-ship transfers outside harbour authority areas to a single designated area within the UK territorial sea and establishing a system of permits issued by the MCA, giving effect at the same time to the new chapter 8 of Annex I to the MARPOL convention.
Having taken account of all the representations made, both in the main review and in the extension of the review in February and March, I have again come to the conclusion that this is the appropriate course of action and that the designated area for ship-to-ship transfers (other than in harbour authority waters) shall be the waters off the Suffolk coast where ship-to-ship transfers are already carried out.
The recognition of these waters off the Suffolk coast as a suitable area for carrying out ship-to-ship transfers is based on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s and the industry’s actual experience of the successful use of these waters for ship-to-ship transfer operations over a number of years without pollution of the seas and coasts. The MCA will continue to monitor such operations closely to ensure they are carried out to the highest possible safety standards.
I shall place an addition to the analytical table previously provided in December 2010, which summarises the points of substance made in the written representations and the meetings held with interested parties during the period of the extension of the review in February and March, in the libraries of both Houses and on the department’s website.
As I also indicated in my written ministerial statement on 30 March, the amended Merchant Shipping (Ship-to-Ship Transfers) Regulations 2010 are intended to come into force on 1 October 2011. In common with other new domestic secondary legislation, these regulations will contain provisions setting an automatic expiry date and requiring them to be reviewed in a specified number of years.