16 October 2014

Westminster may soon be under pressure to carry out an investigation and safety review following a cargo ship blaze that resulted in the evacuation of a North Sea oil platform.

Last week Danish ship MV Parida, which was carrying radioactive nuclear waste, is thought to have caught fire and consequently drifted in the Moray Firth.

Scotland’s Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead plans to contact Baroness Verma, who has responsibility for the UK nuclear regulatory body, to discuss whether it was wise for a vessel carrying such material to set sail in a ‘weather window’ when the weather condition led to the ship drifting and made the rescue effort more difficult than it would have been in better weather.

In addition to asking Westminster to investigate the incident and explore what lessons can be learned from its outcome, Mr Lochhead will also suggest to Baroness Verma that the Scottish Government should have the powers to enable it to regulate the transportation of nuclear waste on Scottish land and sea.

Mr Lochhead said: “The Parida is now anchored about one mile from the Cromarty Firth, and the appropriate UK regulators will decide when it is safe for the vessel and its cargo to move. However, given the circumstances of this incident I will be seeking assurance from the UK Government that a suitable towing vessel will be in the vicinity of the vessel as it makes its way out of Scottish waters.

“I will also be asking the UK Government for an investigation to be carried out to examine what caused this incident, and why we have a situation that vessels that are carrying nuclear waste in our waters are waiting for weather windows at this time of year, especially given the impact that the weather could have on any rescue operation.

“We have to ensure that we are taking absolutely every single precaution that comes with the transportation of nuclear waste. In this case, risk to the public and environment has been avoided, which is very reassuring to hear and I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone who was involved in the rescue operation last night and in the early hours of this morning.

“Presently, the Scottish Government does not have control over the transportation of radioactive waste or what happens with ships in incidents like this that occur in Scottish waters – all we can currently do is monitor the situation. I will be raising this issue with Baroness Verma to ask expressly that the relevant powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”

The Scottish Government, along with the Maritime & Coastguard Authority (MCA) and Police Scotland are continuing to monitor the situation.

In a bid to remove potential fire hazards, commercial buildings and non-domestic premises in Scotland are already forced to carry out a fire safety risk assessment under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, in conjunction with the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the enforcing authority has the power to prosecute the Dutyholder.

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