Cromarty Firth scrubs out oil transfer plans

Dolphins of the coast of Burghead in the Moray Firth
Dolphins of the coast of Burghead in the Moray Firth

Controversial plans to transfer millions of tonnes of crude oil between tankers at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth – allegedly threatening dolphins and other marine life – have been scrapped.

The constituency MSP for the Black Isle praised the resilience of the Cromarty community after years of campaigning resulted in a neighbouring port authority abandoning plans for at-sea ship to ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth.

Despite being a coastal village with a population of just 700, well over 100,000 people signed an online petition organised by the Cromarty Rising campaigners concerned about the environmental risks if an oil spill were to occur.

The Cromarty and Moray Firths are home to bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises, mink whales as well as other marine and bird life.

Kate Forbes MSP, who last year joined protesters in dolphin costumes as they demonstrated outside of the Scottish Parliament about the issue, said that this victory demonstrated that “the most remote communities in Scotland have great weight”.

The Port of Cromarty Firth Authority revealed in its latest newsletter that “due to higher priority projects the Port will not be pursuing the re-submission of our ship to ship at anchor application”.

Kate Forbes MSP, whose Highland constituency includes Cromarty, said: “This news is of huge importance to my constituents, who campaigned long and hard against ship to ship oil transfers in the Cromarty Firth.

“They took their message to the Scottish Parliament, as well as the furthest corners of the globe with an online petition.

“Almost three years since it emerged that the Port of Cromarty Firth submitted an initial proposal, my constituents will be delighted that they do not intend to apply for a ship to ship license.

“The voices of some of the most remote communities in Scotland have great weight, and this is a victory for local residents who actively resisted any risks to our marine wildlife, local economy or international reputation.”

Drew Hendry, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said:”The Cromarty port authority have confirmed they will not be pursuing ship to ship transfers in the future. This is fantastic news. I vehemently opposed this application, as did 98% of the residents of Nairn who responded to my community survey. This is a victory for all the local campaigners who fought so hard to ensure ship to ship didn’t happen here in our local waters.”

The Port of Cromarty Firth’s bid was to shift up to 180,000 tonnes of oil, four times a month, between ships anchored in the dolphin-populated waters near the South and North Sutors.

A previous application was withdrawn.

It has now decided not to re-submit another application due to “higher priority projects the port.”

Last month it was announced that the quayside is to be expanded at a cost of £30m to accommodate energy projects and the largest cruise ships.

Invergordon’s Port of Cromarty Firth said the project to be completed in 2020 would create more than 140 jobs, 25 of them at the site.

It will be the second quayside and laydown area to be built at the port in three years.

Pressure group Cromarty Rising earlier this year lodged a complaint with the European Commission about the Port of Cromarty Firth’s oil transfer licence application.

Concern over the plans has also been expressed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.