Council officials are said to be “working to clarify” the reasons why tankers from fully loaded tankers from Sullom Voe Terminal are anchoring close to the Shetland Mainland.
The matter, which has been raised by former councillor Jonathan Wills, is on the agenda at Wednesday’s SIC harbour board meeting.
Papers before the meeting state: “On recent occasions, some tankers have been using the area south of Lerwick to break passage for extended periods.
“The council is working to clarify the reasons for that change of practice with the oil industry, and seek to return to direct approach and departure of Sullom Voe Terminal tankers to and from Shetland waters without in-shore layby.”
Dr Wills, in his role as honorary warden of Noss Nature Reserve, said he was relieved that officials were on to the situation. The tankers were using the area between Noss and Mousa as a “floating crude oil storage area”, he said, and he hoped the council would return to former “prudent custom and practice” which kept the vessels more than 20 miles offshore, except when entering or leaving Sullom Voe.
Dr Wills said: ” It is, however, astonishing that the council has not simply informed the oil companies that it requires them immediately to abide by the agreement they voluntarily entered into many decades ago, and which there is no reason to alter.
“It is indeed true that ‘useful lessons can be learned and shared’ from recent multiple breaches of the agreement — described as a ‘purported’ agreement by an ignorant press officer for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Southampton.
“The most useful lesson is perhaps that emollient waffle by council representatives, apparently trying to ingratiate themselves with the oil companies, is unacceptable to the public who pay their salaries.
“We expect them to make sure the oil industry fully complies at all times with ‘The Shetland Standard’ of environmental protection, so loudly trumpeted by councillors in the aftermath of the Braer oil spill 28 years ago.
“The current failure to do this does indeed ‘prejudice environmental protection’. It also encourages the industry to believe that these sensible safety precautions are negotiable. They are not.”