§ Mr. Macdonald
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will consider introducing restrictions on oil tanker movements in the Minch in order to reduce damage caused to the marine environment by oil spillages.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
Tankers cannot be banned from the Minch: their captains must always have the option of using the Minch route in adverse weather conditions, rather than the rougher deep water route (DWR) to the west of the Outer Hebrides.
We have considered the possibility of mandatory restrictions very carefully. The only restriction that could be imposed under international law is a traffic separation scheme. There is no evidence that this is needed, as tankers appear to use the existing recommended routes. All vessels would be obliged to use it in accordance with the collision regulations, and this would seriously inhibit the activities of fishing vessels. A scheme might also encourage tankers to use the Minch route. We have therefore concluded that restrictions are impracticable. My Department already urges shipowners and masters to use the outer routes when practicable, and will raise the use of the DWR at the International Maritime Organisation.