§ Dr. Godman
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 9 July,Official Report, column 83, if he is now in a position to publish his assessment of the review of tanker traffic in the deep water route west of the Hebrides and the Minch.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
A survey of tanker traffic using the Minch and the alternative deep water route to the west of the Outer Hebrides was carried out in September and October last year. I am arranging for a copy of the report to be placed in the Library.
Laden tankers over 10,000 grt are recommended to use the deep water route when weather conditions permit. During the 21 days and nights of the survey, 21 tankers passing through the area off the north-west of Scotland could have used the route. Of these, four used the route, four claimed that they were prevented from doing so by bad weather and 13—an average of only two laden tankers every three days—used the Minch route in weather conditions which appeared to allow use of the deep water route.
My Department has sought explanations from shipowners on the use of the Minch route. It is clear from the responses that routes were carefully considered taking account of weather conditions and forecasts at the time of route planning.
My Department will continue to urge shipowners and masters to use the deep water route whenever weather conditions make it practicable. They will do this both directly and indirectly through national flag state administrations, harbour authorities and the International Maritime Organisation. But it will never be possible to eliminate tanker traffic from the more sheltered Minch route, as it is essential that ships' masters retain the freedom to use that route when they judge it to be safest.