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RFA Darkdale

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 8 April 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will take steps to remove the fuel, oil and ammunition from RFA Darkdale after its sinking in James Bay, St Helena; and if he will make a statement; (325669)

(2) if he will ensure that RFA Black Rover during its visit to St Helena in May (a) provides oil spill equipment to deal with oil leaks from the sunken RFA Darkdale and (b) assists with clean-up operations; and if he will make a statement.

The Ministry of Defence is working with other Government Departments to assess the options following the recent oil leak from the former Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Darkdale which sank during World War II. A full survey of the wreck will be required to determine whether the removal of fuel, oil and ammunition is the most appropriate course of action. Before the survey work can begin, a risk assessment is being carried out based on current knowledge of Darkdale and the recent oil leak. This will determine the nature and degree of risk involved in carrying out the full survey.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Black Rover is neither suitably equipped nor has suitably qualified crew members to assist with any operation to clean up the recent oil leak, which is specialised work. However, depending on the outcome of the aforementioned risk assessment, Black Rover may be used to transport a survey team and specialist equipment to St. Helena.