Dozens of surfers today descended on North Berwick and Portobello beaches as part of Scottish Green Party-led campaign against ship to ship oil transfers in the Firth of Forth. (1)Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) and the Greens joined forces to stage two public rallies attended by water sports enthusiasts from across Scotland, Green MSPs and members of the public. Greens have pledged to change the law so that publicly-accountable ministers, not the private company Forth Ports (FP), have the final say on the Forth proposals. (2)

SAS is a Cornwall-based group renowned for high-profile grassroots action for clean, safe recreational waters, free from sewage effluents, toxic chemicals, marine litter and nuclear waste.

Robin Harper MSP, Greens’ co-leader, spoke at the North Berwick  event. He said, “These oil transfer proposals are a clear example of EU laws not being applied robustly, and companies such as Forth Ports exploiting these weaknesses to boost profits at the expense of communities, their local economy and the environment.

“By first voting Green in May’s election, the public can support swift action to give publicly-accountable ministers, not a private company, the final say on ship-to-ship oil transfers.

“Our coasts must be protected. The local beaches are invaluable community assets, treasured by families, water sports enthusiasts and local residents, and of course tourism businesses. The prospect of a potentially devastating oil spill would ruin the local economy and leave the environment scarred for years to come.”

Richard Hardy, SAS Campaigns Director, said:

“The turnout at these events shows the high level of public opposition to these plans. Hundreds of water sports enthusiasts in the Forth area, and the businesses they help sustain, depend on access to clean beaches – that should not be put at risk for the sake of private companies’ profits. The Executive urgently needs to take control of the decision-making process to ensure the health of the Forth is not undermined by potentially lucrative contracts for Forth Ports and SPT Marine.”

Sam Christopherson, Surf Instructor at Dunbar Coast to Coast Surf School, said, “Ship to ship oil transfers are a huge risk to Forth communities – for these plans to even be considered is just crazy.”

This Thursday, Forth Ports boss Charles Hammond will meet with officials from East Lothian , Edinburgh and Fife councils, all of which oppose the proposals. Greens recently revealed that SPT Marine, despite claiming that it has an “excellent” safety record, was involved in a 35,000 gallon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 1995. (3)

Surfers Against Sewage ran a successful campaign in the late 1990s that forced an upgrade of Seafield Sewage Works to improve the treatment of water before it is pumped out to sea.


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1. Forth Ports and SPT Marine are the two companies behind the plan.

For more background on the Greens’ campaign, see  
Around 160 protestors (surfers, Greens’ supporters, members of the public) were at North Berwick, around 90 at Portobello.

2. The following is included in the Scottish Green Party’s 2007 election manifesto:

• Greens will halt consideration of ship-to-ship oil transfer in the Firth of Forth and shift the powers of accountability from private port authorities back to Ministers. All development projects must comply with robust marine spatial planning.