To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he is taking to dissuade tankers from using the Minch, and to prefer routes west of the Minch; and what advice is being provided by the marine pollution control unit.
The deep water route (DWR) to the west of the Hebrides was established by the International Maritime Organisation, at the Government's request, in 1987. The route is clearly marked on charts with a note recommending that, weather permitting, laden tankers of over 10,000 gross registered tonnage should use this route instead of the Minch. It is important that tanker masters retain the freedom to use the more sheltered waters of the Minch in adverse weather conditions.A survey last year showed that some laden tankers do not use the DWR even when the weather appears to be suitable. The Government are deeply concerned at this and have asked other Governments, through the International Maritime Organisation, to ensure that mariners are aware of the DWR and to encourage them to use it. My Department has written to the owners of tankers seen using the Minch in good weather to ask for their reasons and to urge them to use the DWR. My Department is preparing a notice to mariners to be issued to the masters of all tankers calling at Sullum Voe, urging them to use the DWR.
The marine pollution control unit is not responsible for issuing this advice, but, of course, it takes every opportunity to remind oil companies of the sensitivity of the Minch.