CAMPAIGNERS have released an independent report suggesting the residents of a Welsh town have been potentially endangered by a "regulatory black hole".
Last night Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA) denied the claims, which are made in a study of the process that resulted in permission being granted for ships carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to dock in the port.
Risk consultant Dr Tony Cox states in his report: "While I would have preferred to have seen the whole of all the original documents on which MHPA are relying, I am confident, from their titles and the statements made by MHPA upon them, that no proper risk assessment... has been undertaken by or for the MHPA for the risks of marine spills of LNG.
"The MHPA therefore gave its advice to the local planning authorities concerning the planning applications for construction of the terminals without having found out what risks were entailed for the onshore population, still less determining that these were so low as to be acceptable...
"There has been no proper analysis of the risks to the shore-based population due to marine LNG spills that was made available to the decision making authorities. Approvals were therefore granted to the terminals without this critical information."
Gordon Main, of the campaign group Safe Haven, said: "Dr Cox's findings confirm that there are serious question marks surrounding the marine LNG operation's impact on public safety. The situation is now critical as the first LNG ship is expected any day. We believe, now more than ever, that there is a serious obligation on those responsible for the safety of the Haven's residents to finally take some action. Accepting verbal reassurance from the port authority is no longer an acceptable approach."
A spokesman for Milford Haven Port Authority said: "Safe Haven's latest salvo is a last-gasp attempt to re-work tired, old assertions that we have responded to on many occasions. They are not ‘revealing' anything new in this latest documentation - their experts are entitled to their views, with which we wholeheartedly disagree.
"We have been working closely with South Hook LNG and Dragon LNG for several years in planning for the way in which LNG ships will be managed alongside all the other shipping and other users of the port.
"MHPA has also been directly involved with the planning authorities (Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park), the Health and Safety Executive, the Maritime and Coastguard Agencies and other bodies in supplying information, advice and comment to assist those organisations in fulfilling their responsibilities in respect of these significant LNG developments.
"Those who are opposed to LNG for whatever reasons seek every opportunity to fuel public concern. One of Safe Haven's oft-heard allegations is that MHPA has failed to undertake adequate risk assessments of LNG shipping. In fact, a comprehensive range of professional risk assessments have been undertaken. As well as making use of work carried out or commissioned by others, we have ourselves undertaken or commissioned from experts many risk assessments as part of the process of determining the way in which we will regulate and manage LNG ships. This myriad of separate but interlocking risk assessments, information gathering exercises and training have determined how we will manage and control LNG shipping safely."