The Devon Maritime Forum was formed in 2005 with the aim of providing:
- Strategic advice and overviews of maritime issues in Devon
- Information about events and the maritime operating environment
- Awareness and understanding of stakeholders’ roles, responsibilities and
- Networking opportunities
- Dissemination of current legislation and access to consultation processes
It aims to achieve this through networking, forums and meetings with peer groups and industry professionals. In essence it aims to resolve conflicts within the maritime sector and the coastal zone.
An area of cencern for the south coast lies in Dorset, Devons neighbouring county, and occurs a result of the Baltic/Russian oil trade, in which Lyme Bay plays a pivotal role, being the site for ship to ship (STS) oil transfers. Recently the issue of a catastrophic oil pollution event has been made public with concerns raised over numerous factors:
- No single source of advice
- No single control over tankers
- No authority to whom masters report
- No means of separating various uses(fishing, recreation, etc.)
- No means of keeping tankers well awayfrom shore [shallow water]Donaldson, 1994
- No criminal liability for STS incidents, unlikeDenmark (March 2003)
As a conservation area which contains SSS, SMA, SPA, NNR and SAoC's it is vital that it is afforded protection. Transfer operations have already been happening under government licence ten miles offshore in Lyme Bay for a number of years, but a year ago considerable concern expressed by local councils and residents forced the oil companies to suspend their activities (1).
Subsequently Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (FHC) wanted to bring STS transfer of Russian bulk crude oil to Falmouth Bay. This proposed activity was revealed in the press in April of this year (2008) but FHC had been working on the scheme since 2003 (2). Concerns were voiced by locals as to the safety of such sts activity and how it would be governed. With the input of FHC the transfer companies eventually signed up to a robust system of control and precautionary measures. The FHC also insisted on all Masters being vetted, that they have suitable insurance arrangements, and that all vessels have double hull construction. This input was enough to warrant the continuation of STS activity in Falmouth, which over recent years has seen a decline in ship repair and export of stone. It is hoped as a result of this, the opportunity to capitalise upon the economic boost will be embraced. The increased need for additional dedicated oil pollution control and first response equipment (3) will create much needed employment in the area.
Interestingly, a UK based company, Fendercare UK (4), have also stepped in to assist with the STS transfer problem. By utilizing a sophisticated system of laser pointing devices that control an articualted arm, they claim to be able to reduce oil spillages during filling to zero. The ports shuttle tanker owners are currently considering this equipment at this time, along with other, more environmentally friendly techniques that pose less risk to the coastal zone (5).
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