Port chiefs are inviting community council members from around the Cromarty Firth to a summit in an effort to allay fears of pollution from proposed ship-to-ship oil transfers.
The Cromarty Firth Port Authority has agreed to instigate additional research and “refine” its application for a licence following a wave of protest over possible pollution from the procedures.
Having consulted with the community and others over 10 months, it is reviewing three key areas of concern.
It has pledged to carry out further “oil spill modelling” to cover a wider range of weather and tidal factors and assessment of collision risks.
There will be more assessment of the potential impact on the area’s treasured bottlenose dolphins and further investigation into maritime and marine safety relating to ship movements and grounding assessments.
The invitation has been issued on the eve of a public meeting – at 2pm tomorrow (SAT) at the Old High Church hall in Academy Street, Inverness – at which objectors will reaffirm their concerns.
Port chiefs say have promised to enact recommendations of community and statutory consultees about “ballast water management” if the licence is granted.
They have also pledged to comply with international rules that demand that all ballast waters will be treated before discharged into the sea.
Port chief excecutive Bob Buskie said: “This comprehensive package will further enhance the work already carried out by our consultants and will take some months to complete due to its complex nature.
“If the licence is granted, the port will implement a ballast water management plan where all water is treated before it’s discharged.”
He is inviting representatives from the firth’s nine community councils to a meeting soon to hear an update on the additional work plans and timescale for their completion.
Black Isle councillor and prominent objector Craig Fraser said he remained to be convinced.
“The underlying environmental issues persist,” he said.
A “refined” planning application will then be submitted to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, probably in January. A further public meeting will also be arranged for early next year.