HC Deb 20 October 1999 vol 336 cc589-90W
Mr. Wallace

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the investigations to establish why the master of the Alandia Stream which broke down in the Fair Isle channel on 26 June delayed notifying the coastguard of his ship's condition. [94602]

Mr. Hill

The vessel when adrift, was never within six miles of the coast or within the designated six mile "area to be avoided" navigational zone around Fair Isle. The vessel fully complied with the MCA requirement to accept a tug and the Anglian Prince was despatched to the scene. A tow was accepted and the vessel taken to Sullom Voe, Shetland as a port of refuge, keeping outside of the "area to be avoided" as per MCA instructions.

Following the Port State Control Inspection of the vessel at Sullom Voe, MCA investigated why six hours had elapsed before the tanker reported to the Coastguard that she was in difficulty.

The Master's response was that he wished to check the problem to see if it could be fixed without assistance. He maintained that the vessel's drift was monitored carefully to ensure that the ship remained outside the area to be avoided.

The MCA advised the Master that the UK Government expect to be immediately informed of any incident that affected the safety of vessels or possible endangerment to reflecting turnover and movement within the stock. However, recent analysis of local authorities reporting problems with unpopular housing contained in the PAT 7 "Unpopular Housing" report shows that low demand neighbourhoods tend to have vacancies at three times the national level.

A breakdown by length of time vacant is not collected centrally for all tenures. The available information is as follows: the environment even when assistance was not required. The MCA formed the opinion that the Finnish Master well understood the concerns of the UK authorities and would be more willing to keep the Coastguard informed of any future incidents.

The MCA also contacted the Bahamas, the Flag State Administration, notifying them that we would have expected an earlier notification from the Master to the UK Coastguard. The Bahamas have agreed to follow this up with the Finnish owners of the vessel.