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Caithness News Bulletins November 2003

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The Highland Council is to seek an early meeting with Transport Secretary Alistair Darling to highlight the urgent need for more effective management of shipping around coastal waters. At the same time, the Council is to set to gain membership of an influential European working group, which is examining maritime safety issues.

The sinking of the freighter MV Jambo off the south west coast of Eilean a Char, one of the Summer Isles on 29 June, and the subsequent unsuccessful salvage operation has underlined the urgency for action.

Following the Jambo incident, Convener Councillor Alison Magee wrote to Mr Darling at Westminster to express the Council’s concern at the length of time it had taken to organise the salvage operation; the lack of consultation about the environmental impact which might be caused by the sunken vessel and its cargo of zinc concentrate; and the lack of consultation when determining the most suitable site for returning excess water to the sea.

The freighter is now lying face down on the sea bed with little prospect of being salvaged or further recovery of the cargo.

Councillor Magee said: “Action is long overdue and I hope that a meeting with Mr Darling will give us the breakthrough we have been seeking for so long.”

The Council heard that the Council is bidding for a place on the Maritime Safety Intercom Group – part of the Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions. It is also being suggested that the Baltic and North Sea regional groups of the CPMR should hold a maritime safety conference.

Councillor Bill Fulton recently spoke at the CPMR maritime safety seminar in Nantes, France, when he highlighted the dangers that exist daily around the shores of Europe and the need for action across the international community.

He told the conference that a number of measures were needed, including the removal of the Right of Innocent Passage, the mandatory reporting of vessels using coastal waters and the installation of transponders on all vessels. Success to date had been limited to the berthing of a tug at Stornoway.

He also believed that nothing would change until all vessels were required to carry an all risks insurance policy and a European Coastguard Service was created.

He said: “We must persist with this campaign and ensure our voice is heard in the Scottish Parliament, Westminster and in Europe. I am encouraged that things are moving on the European front and hopefully we can have some influence on this Working Group. Making progress on this important issue must remain high on the Council’s campaigning agenda.”

July 03