Navy vessel apologises after MPA anchorage
A naval commander has said sorry after a Norwegian minesweeper anchored in the Lamlash Bay No Take Zone.
It is the first time in nine years there has been a serious breach in the marine reserve which came during the recent Joint Warrior military exercise.
The culprit was a Norwegian minesweeper which left the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) chiefs ‘dismayed’ at the lack of respect for the zone. The commanding officer has now apologised.
Following a strongly worded communication, from COAST director Paul Chandler and co-founder Howard Wood, Lieutenant Commander Ole Torstein Sjo apologised for the incident saying that he was not aware of the marine reserve as it was not marked on his navigational charts.
He added: ‘It was by no means deliberate from our side but simply because we lack the particular knowledge with regards to the seabed’s vulnerability in this particular area. If we had known better we would surely have anchored in a different position.
‘With this I would once again apologise on behalf of the ship and crew. I would like to emphasise that we are very environmentally conscious but sadly we lacked the knowledge of this areas vulnerability and if we had the knowledge we would most certainly have chosen a better place to drop our anchor.’
COAST director Paul Chandler accepted the apology and thanked the commanding officer for his reply but expressed dismay that the South Arran
Marine Protected Area and No Take Zone were not on his charts. He said that the Queen’s Harbour Master environmental and sustainability impact statement for the Joint Warrior exercise explicitly stated: ‘No anchoring or disruptive vessel manoeuvres which could disturb the sea bed or adjacent wildlife will take place within 0.5 miles of designated MPA.’
Mr Chandler continued: ‘I understand that this may be a breakdown in communication from our naval authorities to yours but I would expect the boundaries to be present on your chart plotter and navigation systems.
‘Your vessel is the first large vessel to have anchored within our No Take Zone for a period of nine years and we have been monitoring the regeneration of this area year on year with our own work and through various universities.’
While not illegal to anchor in the zone, maritime tradition has respected the marine designation and large vessels have avoided the area as an anchorage, until this latest incident.
As an aside and with reference to his own Norwegian nature reserves the commanding officer suggested that COAST could seek from the Scottish authorities, a no-anchorage zone for the area which would reduce the likelihood of future incidents.
COAST is investigating the anchoring co-ordinates provided by the vessel in order to asses any possible damage to the seabed floor.
The Norwegian minesweeper pictured in the Clyde last year.