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Pentland Firth - Shipping
PENTLAND FIRTH - SHIPPING
The Pentland Firth is an International Shipping Lane with 6,500 vessels, of all types, transiting the Firth each year. Of these vessels, almost 900 can be classified as carrying bulk hazardous cargoes. The remaining vessels are mostly made up from bulk carriers, general cargo and product tankers. Fishing vessels account for only 6.5% of vessels transiting the firth.
To underline the possible severe nature of the Pentland Firth it is recommended that all vessels should be thoroughly secured before entering the Firth even in the calmest of conditions. A strong sense of security should always prevail, as deck damage on even the largest of vessels can be sustained when passing the Merry Men of mey during a westerly-going stream, the Swilkie during both streams and Duncansby race during the easterly stream.
The Pentland Firth can be extraordinarily violent and confused in all conditions and careful preparation should be attended to.
Oil tankers not bound for the oil terminal at Scapa Flow should not use the Firth in adverse conditions, but use the more northerly route through the Fair Isle Channel. Tankers are further recommended to transit under favourable tidal conditions. The Admiralty List of Radio Signals (ALRS) advises mariner's that "laden tankers not bound to or from Flotta and Scapa Flow should not transit the Pentland Firth against the tide or in restricted visibility or adverse weather".
Despite these warnings, over a third of hazardous cargo vessels fail to heed these recommendations, making an environmental disaster a very real probability for the communities along the Pentland Firth.