Legal challenge to port authority behind Moray oil transfers

John Finnie - call on ship-to-ship application to be withdrawn as status of port authority is called into question
John Finnie MSP – call on ship-to-ship application to be withdrawn as status of port authority is called into question

THE COURT OF SESSION is to hear evidence today that the Board of the Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) have been taking ‘legally flawed’ decisions.

Scotland’s highest civil court will hear arguments that the Scottish Government acted outside its legal powers when it relaxed rules under which the CFPA chooses its Board of Directors.

The case is casting doubt over the rights of the port authority to implement risky ship-to-ship oil transfers on the Moray Firth – and has prompted a call from Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie for the plans to be dropped.

Since December groups in Moray and throughout the Highlands have been campaigning against the request by the CFPA to establish the controversial transfers, arguing that doing so would put much of the Moray coastline in grave danger from oil spills and contamination.  An application for a licence to establish the transfers is currently under consideration by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Mr Finnie insists that it is now unclear whether the CFPA was legally competent to apply for the license to conduct ship-to-ship oil transfer operations, and has written to the MCA, asking them to suspend consideration of the application until it can be shown that the request was legal.

The MSP said: “It is already clear that the proposal to pump oil between ships in the open sea, away from the security of the harbourside, is an unacceptable threat to the priceless ecosystem of the Moray Firth, including its iconic dolphins, porpoises and whales, and puts the Firth’s fishing and tourism industries at risk.  Now it emerges that the application for the oil transfer license may not even be legal.

“We cannot pre-empt how the Court of Session will rule on this issue. As long as any suggestion exists that CFPA is improperly constituted then no decision as serious as the ship-to-ship application can reasonably go ahead.

“The application process must be suspended at least until the legal status of the Port Authority is settled.”

Mr Finnie’s ‘Save Our Dolphins’ campaign has drawn support from over 3700 members of the public through his online petition.