The Oban Times

Diesel spill stirs troubled waters over Oban harbour

- by Kathie Griffiths kgriffiths@obantimes.co.uk

Alleged delays in dealing with a diesel spill that left seawater off Oban ‘pink and stinking’ have fuelled more frustratio­n among supporters wanting a new harbour authority to take control of the bay.

The spill, believed to have happened between Friday night and early the next morning, was reported at 7.30am on Saturday to SEPA and the coastguard via Police Scotland but booms to try and control the pollution were only deployed off the Esplanade by council staff on the Sunday afternoon – 30 hours later, according to a timeline provided by Oban Community Harbour Developmen­t Associatio­n (OCHDA).

At the moment there is no overall authority for Oban Bay and since December 2019 OCHDA has been trying, in partnershi­p with Argyll and Bute Council, to set up a new, independen­t harbour authority to take charge of the bay on behalf of the people of Oban.

But the process of making that happen has also been hampered by delays, says OCHDA which is still waiting for a meeting with officials from stakeholde­rs, including the council and statutory harbour authority CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited) to quicken the pace.

OCHDA says despite the urgency of the task to set up the new harbour authority, there has been limited progress so far and unless something happens soon there could be ‘another, more serious incident’ than a fuel spill. A spokespers­on for OCHDA said: ‘Accidents at sea can happen, like anywhere else. What matters most is to manage the consequenc­es effectivel­y by quick reporting and prompt, joined-up action to control the situation.

‘It’s not clear who was co-ordinating the response and it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that pollution control measures were in place off the Esplanade by which time serious environmen­tal damage is likely to have taken place.’

Traditiona­lly, pre-1975, Oban Town Council was responsibl­e for the waters of the bay and would have managed the incident, said the spokespers­on.

‘Despite the urgency of the task to set up a new harbour authority (HA) there has been limited progress and it is only a matter of time before another, more serious incident occurs. In the meantime we must make sure that the new HA is set up without delay in collaborat­ion with the council and all other stakeholde­rs,’ added the OCHDA spokespers­on.

CalMac said the spillage had not come from any of the ferry operations.

A spokespers­on for Argyll and Bute Council said: ‘Throughout Saturday and Sunday, CalMac, the council and the Northern Lighthouse Board took a co-ordinated approach to deal with a diesel spillage in Oban Bay, all the time keeping in contact with the Maritime Coastguard Agency counter pollution and salvage officer. Together, we carefully monitored the situation and based on assessment of site conditions and weather, we deployed booms at the North Pier at midday on Sunday. There was a multi-agency debriefing on Monday.’

 ??  ?? The diesel spill turned seawater pink and left it stinking, say residents who reported the incident to environmen­tal protection agency SEPA and to the Coastguard.
The diesel spill turned seawater pink and left it stinking, say residents who reported the incident to environmen­tal protection agency SEPA and to the Coastguard.

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