The South Marine Plan in a wider context

David Attenborough recently brought the issue of the sustainability of marine resources to all our attention.  A Marine Plan is a framework document and a tangible step towards sustainable seas.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOver many years there have been increasing and multiple pressures in coastal waters from dredging, windfarms, communications cables, pipelines, bottom trawling, shipping, leisure activities and many other activities. Much of this activity was insufficiently regulated and often uncharted, with a lack of formal channels of communication between either authorities or perpetrators, and with little thought to sustainability. The associated infrastructure can blight our coastline if cooperation in good planning is lacking. The Solent in particular is under pressure from increased development, both marine and terrestrial.

Concern as to the sustainable use of natural resources worldwide, the decline of biodiversity, food security and climate change led to the ground breaking UN “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 where the Convention on Biological Diversity (also known as the Biodiversity Convention or CBD) was adopted. It entered into force in December 1993. The Biodiversity Convention, to which the UK was a Party, was the first global treaty to provide a legal framework for biodiversity and conservation. Part of this Convention laid the foundation for a worldwide process of Marine Planning to promote sustainable use of marine resources and to halt the decline in biodiversity. The UK commitment to the Biodiversity Convention marine initiative is embodied in the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009), Parts 1, 2 and 3 of which covers Marine Planning. The UK coastline was divided into tranches and an inshore and offshore Marine Plan was created in each tranche. The South Inshore Marine Plan, which covers the Solent area, became law on 17th July 2018.

Marine Plans are not development documents such as terrestrial Local Plans. They are policy documents. In respect of the South Marine Plan, stakeholders were invited to consultations and workshops to discuss the desired strength of each policy so that a sensible, effective and acceptable level of governance and management could be achieved. Comment on the policies and their local effects, as well as The Solent Protection Society’s role in the consultation process, is covered by another article in this newsletter. Geographically, the South Marine Plan area stretches for 1000 kilometres of coastline from Folkestone to the River Dart. It is one of the most complex and used areas of the English coastline. As elsewhere, there are separate offshore and inshore sections.

To understand the concept of the Marine Plan more clearly, it is worth examining the legislative steps from the “Rio” Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) to where we are today. There are many daughter conventions to the UN “Rio” Convention on Biodiversity (1992) and the more significant conventions relevant to Marine Planning include the OSPAR Convention (1998) which is the UN Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic under which authority the UK marine area falls, and also the more familiar UNCLOS (1982), the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Nineteen years after the “Rio” Convention, the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) created a new Agency within Defra called the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

The MMO operates as the competent marine planning authority on behalf of UK Government, delivering marine functions in English territorial waters. The MMO has overall responsibility for Marine Planning, Licensing, Environment, Marine Conservation Zones and Marine Protected Areas, Fisheries (offshore and inshore), and enforcement. It carries out these duties with advice from other appropriate government agencies, mainly within Defra, such as the Environment Agency or Natural England, depending on the relevant issue.

Confusion may arise between the United Nations initiative (UN OSPAR Convention etc.) behind Marine Planning, and European Directives (where transposed into UK law) which are used to enforce the actions of the MMO, for instance the use of the Habitats Directive (UK Habsregs 2010) to enforce Marine Conservation Zones.

Further confusion may have arisen in July 2018 when the South Marine Plan became law just as Defra was consulting on the designation of Marine Conservation Zones, two of which are in the Solent area, the subject of another article in the Newsletter.  To explain the relationship between the two issues, we have to return to the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) where, as already mentioned, Parts 1,2 and 3 deal with the creation of the MMO and Marine Planning, while Part 5 covers Nature Conservation. This Part 5 gives the ultimate responsibility for the enforcement of the Marine Conservation Zones to the MMO, although the advisory agency for the science behind MCZs lies elsewhere in Defra, namely Natural England. The MMO also has the mandate to create local regulations where habitats may be suffering damage, and when considered necessary.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) also gives responsibility to the MMO for all Marine Licensing between High Water and the extent of UK waters. There was a need to clarify and simplify marine licensing and the MMO has responsibility to speed up decisions and to introduce transparency into the system by publishing all marine licensing requests. Marine licensing applications can be found on the MMO website. The overlap with Local Authorities between HW and LW was a deliberate ploy to require Local Authorities and the MMO to cooperate in the tidal zone. Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) the MMO also holds ultimate responsibility for fisheries management and enforcement. Inshore Fishing Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) have been created to manage and enforce fisheries. At sea, IFCA vessels may assist other patrol boats with for enforcement on different issues, including the contravention of regulations regarding MCZs.

Part 9 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act concerns Coastal Access and the Coastal Path.
The South Marine Plan is the second Marine Plan to be created in English waters (the Eastern Marine Plan was the first), and its birth seems to have been long and complex. The initiative brings together the plethora of authorities and stakeholders for whom MMO has a duty to provide a “one stop shop” to coordinate the many authorities and demands on our waters.

There may be teething problems but the future of this initiative is encouraging.

New Hamble homes

NE Hamble, planning permission granted for 500 homes. The treated sewerage will now go into a brook running into the Hamble, however, the query has been raised regarding the potential failure of the proposed water treatment plant.  Botley Parish Council have requested Government intervention.

SPS will write to Botley PC to share their concerns and also to River Hamble Authority to ensure they have knowledge of this.


Green Blue gives balanced advice

Once again The Green Blue has teamed up with the Environment Agency to tackle diffuse pollution – this time encouraging boaters to think about how and where they discharge their black water.

In the Solent we have fast flowing tides, so their advice is relatively straightforward. For more information, click here

Shipping in Solent Waters

Posted on 01 Apr 2008

Single Hull Tankers

Your Council still strives to minimise the risk of oil pollution in the Solent by securing the agreement of the tankers owners and their cargo receivers not to transit the western Solent via the Needles in a laden condition. Coastal tankers, many only with single hulls, loaded with up to 7,000 of highly pollutant fuel oil often use this route.

The sensitivity of a grounded tanker was headline national news on 10th March when “Astrell” carrying about 10,000 tons of highly pollutant refined product ran aground off Bembridge in a storm, but tugs were about to refloat her without any oil spilt.

Shipping air emissions

With environmental issues high on the political agenda, we are pleased to note that emissions from ships are under increasing scrutiny from regulators and we are carefully watching the policies from ABP Southampton in this respect.

The International Maritime Organisation has made a significant announcement recently that ships trading worldwide must cut the sulphur content in their bunkers to 3.5% by 2012 and 0.5% by 2020 which is down from the present level of 4.5%. In designated Sulphur Emission Control Areas, emissions will have to be below 1% in 2010 and 0.1% five year later. These areas include the English Channel and therefore Solent waters which, of course, is good news for residents in the area.

The requirements are subject to the IMO board ratification in October 2008 and will require significant investment in desulphurisation capacity. As a guide, the IEA estimates ship-owners consumed 150 million tons of bunkers in 2005.

MSC NAPOLI – Solent Protection Society warns that a similar oil spill could happen in the Solent

Posted on 26 Jan 2007

Following the grounding of MSC Napoli off Branscombe Beach, the Solent Protection Society calls on all those responsible for bringing cargo vessels into the Solent to continue reviewing and tightening up safety standards.

The unfortunate grounding of MSC Napoli off Branscombe Beach in Devon and the subsequent leaking of oil from her tanks has caused severe environmental problems for the Jurassic Coast’s wildlife, harbours and beaches.

MSC Napoli flies the British flag and therefore it is expected that she would be subject to high safety and operational standards, but accidents and breakdowns will happen. Six years ago MSC Napoli, reportedly, was stranded in the Malacca Straights and subsequently had major dry-docking work in Viet Nam. Last week she lost engine power 40 miles off the Cornish coast and subsequently suffered major structural hull cracks in heavy seas. It is reported she could have already lost about 200 tons of heavy fuel oil from her engine room overboard and there still remains in excess of 3,000 tons of fuel in her bunker tank, which it is hoped can be trans-shipped before she starts to break up. In the meantime hundreds of sea birds have been polluted or died.

An oil spill in the Solent would have a devastating effect on the wildlife, harbours, beaches and businesses of the South Coast.

There are clear differences between shipping casualties in the open sea and the Solent. In the Solent we do not encounter such seas, but we can get heavy winds which will affect the high substructure of ever larger container carriers when they are operating with the wind on their beam, at slow speeds, in our navigating channels. An engine breakdown in this event could prove disastrous. As the volumes and sizes of vessels steadily increase, extra vigilance is essential.

The Solent Protection Society calls upon maritime safety agencies and operators of large container ships using the Solent to reassure the public that they are reviewing their operational safety standards in the light of the Branscombe Bay incident.

Victory for Solent Protection Society on single hull tankers

Posted on 04 Sep 2005

After a long crusade The Solent Protection Society has basic understanding from both the oil companies operating in Solent waters that they will use only double hull tankers, significantly diminishing the possibility of an oil spill in the Solent, which would have devastating consequences.

Solent Protection Society started its campaign against single hull tankers over two years ago. BP have used the safer double hull tankers at their Hamble terminal for some time now, and Exxon Mobil has recently confirmed its agreement to use only double hull tankers to ship crude oil in and out of the Solent.

Solent Protection Council Member, Tom Young, who spearheaded the campaign, said:

“We are delighted to receive this news from Exxon after our two year campaign to secure their agreement to do so. They have confirmed that this year their shipments of crude oil have all been carried out in double hull tankers but, when we first approached them, they were covering nearly 20% of their requirements in single hull tankers, although they agreed that double hull tankers did offer greater environmental protection in the event of a collision or grounding.

“Exxon Mobil claim they still wish to retain their right to use single hull tankers in the Solent, which is their legal entitlement until 2010. In the unlikely event that they do have to use a single hull tanker, we have requested that they provide an extra escort tug, and await their response to this request. Solent Protection are grateful to all those who have helped and supported our campaign.”

Andrew Turner, MP for the Isle of Wight, welcomed information that Exxon Mobil are no longer using single hulled tankers for oil movements in the Solent.

Mr Turner said:

“I congratulate the Solent Protection Society on achieving this understanding with a major oil company. The Solent is an important and unique stretch of water that must be protected for future generations. It has always been a busy waterway and over recent years the number of larger cruise liners, containers and car carriers has increased significantly which of course brings a higher risk of collision.

“This is an example where quiet but persistent lobbying by a voluntary group has achieved real and quantifiable results. There have been no oil movements in single hulled tankers at all this year in the Solent, which must be good news for the local marine environment. I also applaud Exxon Mobil for putting a potential risk to the environment before profit.”