FOFOC New Year Update 2021- Drill Ships Arrive at Hunterston

It has been some time since our last Friends of the Firth of Clyde (FOFOC) update and an awful lot has happened.  So, as we approach the start of 2021, we wanted to take this opportunity to bring you up to date with developments at Hunterston PARC and our plans over the coming year.

Success of FOFOC campaign for an Environmental Impact Assessment of the impact of proposals to bring oil-rig decommissioning to Hunterston

 In August 2018 shock at the apparent lack of concern from the responsible planning and regulatory authorities about the environmental impacts of the proposal by Peel Ports to bring oil rig decommissioning to Hunterston and Southannan Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) led to the formation of FOFOC and the campaign for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to #SaveSouthannanSands.

Following more than 2 years of research, lobbying of MSPs, letter writing and postcard sending … yes! we did actually send over 3000 postcards individually signed by members of the public direct to Graham Black the Director of Marine Scotland … we were delighted that the decision was made that before any of the massive dredging of the seabed and the adjoining Southannan Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) required to enable oil rig decommissioning to be bought to Hunterston an EIA WOULD BE REQUIRED.

Before we could celebrate the outcome of all our efforts Covid-19 arrived and the rest… as they say … is history. However, whilst we have been largely distracted by the pandemic, work at Hunterston has continued.

Dismantling of gantry cranes and re-arrival of large vessels at the jetty

For those of us that have been taking an interest in the removal of what were the largest gantry cranes in Europe the process of reverse engineering has been fascinating to observe. Finally, after several pauses in the itinerary for bad weather and then Covid the cranes are now down and the jetty, ‘refurbished’ with a lick of paint to bollards and Yokohama fenders, received for lay-up on 28th December 2020 two drill ships,  DS-4 & DS-8 owned by the Valaris Company.

Communication to Fairlie Community Council from the new Managing Director of Clyde Port, Jim McSporran, provided the following details: “They (DS-4 & DS-8) will be warm stacked, meaning the vessel is idle, generators used only for occasional engine maintenance and with noise suppressors in place. A skeleton crew will accompany the vessels for on-going maintenance only”.

Given the links of these vessels to the oil industry there has been speculation on social media about connection with Peel Ports previous plans for oil rig decommissioning. In response Mr McSporran has made a point of addressing concerns confirming to FCC Chair Rita Holmes that the two drill ships are not at Hunterston with the intent of decommissioning and are awaiting redeployment on a currently unknown time scale – see open communication below dated 24/12/20

Hunterston Information Memo Rita Holmes


Noise control at sea and in port is now widely recognised by the industry and regulators as an issue that cannot be ignored due to it’s impact on the health and wellbeing of marine mammals and inhabitants of coastal settlements such as Fairlie that are close to operational Ports

Many of you will be familiar with the unique features of Fairlie Bay and the impact of generator noise has been particularly noticeable when conditions are calm and generators supporting ships birthed at the jetty are running.

This issue has been raised with North Ayrshire Council Environmental Health, who have responsibility for regulating noise pollution. They have taken initial readings, which they consider to be within normal limits, but recognising that the noise can vary they have advised that anyone suffering disturbed sleep or has other concerns regarding noise from the site should contact NAC Environmental Health:

We understand that the Hunterston PARC Liaison Group, which was established as required by NAC planning conditions, will continue to meet with stakeholders and we await further update from this group. We have unsuccessfully lobbied for public attendance to this meeting therefore it is important that we maintain communication with our representatives from Fairlie Community Council and Independent Councillor Ian Murdoch in order to keep us updated of developments.

Whilst much has stood still across the globe as we grapple with the pandemic, development at Hunterston PARC (Port & Resource Centre) continue and the decision for the requirement of an EIA does not mean that our aim for environmentally safe and sustainable development of Hunterston has been achieved, rather we view it merely as a chapter, all be it an important one, in the continuing saga to #SaveSouthannanSands.

Unfortunately our experience of dealing with Peel Ports leaves us realistically aware that public collaboration, transparency and the safeguarding of the environment are not always at the top of their priorities list and as emphasised by MSP Ross Greer  we need to remain alert to future developments and their potential environmental impacts.

To this end FOFOC will adopt a policy of ‘watchful waiting’ through liaison with Fairlie Community Council, other local and national stakeholders and continued observation of developments at Hunterston PARC.  So you may hear from us less frequently, but our ears and eyes remain open and we will give updates as and when we learn more.

You can find quick links to all #SaveSouthannanSands news items here >>>

Wishing everyone a happy, hopeful and safe 2021!

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