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Caithness News Bulletins November 2003
SEEKING A SOLUTION TO SHIPPING HAZARDS
24 November 03
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is to be asked to agree a "serious, pragmatic and workable solution" to the problems currently being experienced with shipping movements around coastal waters.
The plea comes from Councillor Alison Magee, Convener of The Highland Council, who is seeking a meeting with Mr Darling as the result of continuing concern about the safety of shipping movements, highlighted by the sinking in June of the MC Jambo off the Summer Isles, Wester Ross and the subsequent salvage/recovery operation mounted by the Department for Transport.
Councillor Magee wrote: "Whilst I am still not entirely happy with the way this incident was handled -particularly given that the ship, and much of its cargo, still lies on the sea bed -my purpose in writing to you again is to emphasise the very real concern The Highland Council has in regard to similar and potentially much more damaging incidents happening in the future.
"The sinking of the MV Jambo is not the first incident of this kind. Indeed, only a year or so ago a Norwegian cargo vessel, the Lysfoss, ran aground in the same stretch of water. We have been very fortunate that, up until now, an accident hasn't occurred with a vessel carrying more hazardous material. But it should also be stressed that any incident of this nature has a serious and potentially lasting impact on the local environment and economy. The whole Council is agreed that some form of control over the movement of vessels in this very narrow and often treacherous stretch of water is needed. I want to make clear that we are not necessarily seeking a ban on traffic movement altogether. We are open to suggestions on how the route may be made safer and we have a series of proposals of our own which, crucially, have received the full backing of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions.
"I am convinced that a serious, pragmatic and workable solution can be found and I would very much appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and discuss this in a constructive manner. I would also like to discuss the handling of future salvage operations so that damage to the environment and the economy can be minimised. I would be happy to provide your office with the detail of our proposals prior to a meeting if you would find this helpful."
Councillor Magee has copied the letter to the First Minister, Jack McConnell, and to Councillor Alex MacDonald, Convener of Comhairle nan Eilean.