NFLA / KIMO UK / KIMO International joint media release
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) and KIMO UK / KIMO International raise real concerns over the recent incident where a number of industrial ships went out of control at the Hunterston jetty owned by Peel Ports, just a short distance from the Hunterston nuclear reactor site.
This serious incident took place on Tuesday 2nd February when two vessels stationed at the Hunterston jetty broke their moorings during a period of severe weather. The drill ships are both owned by Valaris, a company which has recently gone into receivership . There is no work for these drill ships currently and they are presently warm stacked at Hunterston jetty indefinitely.
NFLA and KIMO note comments made by the Friends of the Firth of Clyde group that: “It is clear this incident was averted from serious accident by a number of chance circumstances and the swift action of our emergency services. Should this not have occurred, there could have been a dual shipwreck, with likely high environmental damage and potential loss of life. We demand a full and public incident investigation in order to prevent reoccurrence and to guarantee that any proposals for future use of the terminal will be fully scrutinised in light of this investigation.”
The timeline for this incident appears to be as follows:
- On the evening of Tuesday 2nd Feb at approximately 19:20 the DS4 vessel broke its moorings and issued a ‘Mayday’ call to the coastguard. The weather conditions were very poor with Easterly winds over 40mph and heavy waves.
- The Coastguard, RNLI and Clydeport tug boats were scrambled from Girvan to Greenock to assist along with helicopter support.
- DS4 had become completely detached from the jetty and was halfway between the jetty and Cumbrae. Had it not been for the unorthodox mooring arrangement with the anchor already deployed in the Fairlie Bay – given the winds and the tides, this vessel would have become shipwrecked on the Isle of Cumbrae.
- It is understood that the crew on board were unable to start the engines when requested to do so by the coast guard.
- As the emergency assistance arrived DS8 also broke its moorings and detached from the jetty. As this vessel had no anchor deployed the emergency boats were directed to shunt this vessel back towards the jetty. It is unknown if any crew were on this ship.
- The failure of the moorings is speculated to be from the mooring lines as well as the bollards on the jetty.
- The incident risked loss of life to the crew and emergency support.
- A shipwreck of two vessels of this magnitude of this nature would almost certainly result in a serious environmental disaster.
- Operators routinely observed on the jetty undertaking risky work without any lifejackets.(1)
With the port being so close to the sensitive Hunterston nuclear site, NFLA and KIMO fully support the concerns of the Friends of the Firth of Clyde group. Over the past few years NFLA and KIMO have called for an increase in the number of emergency towing vessels in Scotland, and this incident is another example of why the number of such vessels needs to be urgently increased.
The area around Hunterston is of high environmental value and has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as an MPA (Marine Protected Area). Like many locations close to nuclear power stations, it is a rare ecosystem consisting of endangered species protected under OSPAR and the Nature Conservation Act.
Recently, Peel Ports had been promoting the possibility that it was interested in decommissioning redundant nuclear submarines at the site, but NFLA is aware the Ministry of Defence is not planning to move such work from Rosyth and Devonport. This incident suggests that is clearly the right decision.
NFLA Scotland Convener, Councillor Feargal Dalton said:
“This incident shows again the dangers that continue to arise from ships and marine vessels getting into trouble around the Scottish coast. It is why our long-term support with KIMO International for an increase of emergency towing vessels around Scotland is more urgent than ever. Some of these shipping accidents have occurred in vessels containing radioactive materials, so our concern remains pressing. Another major marine accident was again only just averted by the dedication of emergency staff and an element of good fortune. It should not be like this, and improved emergency arrangements are urgently required across Scotland.”
KIMO UK Chair, Councillor Bill Howatson added:
“At KIMO UK we have been campaigning to maintain and increase the provision of Emergency Towing Vessels all around Scotland for many years. This episode is yet another stark reminder of how important it is that sufficient measures are in place to ensure safety at sea and protect our precious marine environment.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)7771 930196.
Notes to Editors:
Friends of the Firth of Clyde blog on the incident https://friendsoffirthofclyde.org/blog/