As the supertanker containing the first ever consignment of liquified natural gas (LNG) nears Milford Haven's newly constructed storage facility, a safety campaign group has released an independent report which, they say, highlights a "black hole" in the safety regulation of LNG marine operations.
The report, the findings of which have been strongly refuted by Milford Haven Port Authority, was compiled for Safe Haven by Dr Raymond Anthony Cox. Dr Cox is an expert in risk assessments of technological systems who has led technical teams undertaking risk assessments of LNG production, import and export around the world. Dr Cox says that, although the risk to local populations is greater from a marine spill of LNG, he is confident that no adequate risk assessment into the danger posed by marine spills has been carried out.
He states that Milford Haven Port Authority has: "Exaggerated the scope and findings of the studies they have commissioned to make it appear that a proper risk assessment of LNG cargo spills to the onshore population has been carried out on their behalf."
Dr Cox says that, although he has not seen all the documents that the port authority has used, he is sure from their titles and the statements made by MHPA about them, that a risk assessment exploring the risks of a marine spill of LNG has not been undertaken by or for the port authority.
He goes onto say that: "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."
Dr Cox goes on to say that the risks to the onshore population have fallen through a "Regulatory gap" and that: "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."
Safe Haven has forwarded the report to the Secretary of State for Transport as well as the HSE, the Welsh Assembly Government and the local planning authorities.
Spokesman, Gordon Main said that Dr Cox's report confirmed 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," he said.
" 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 for the county's politicians."
The port authority has strongly refuted the claims made in the report. Saying that the latest documentation does not reveal any thing new and that it is a "last-gasp attempt" by Safe Haven to "re-work tired, old assertions".
"Their experts are entitled to their views, with which we wholeheartedly disagree," said a port authority spokesman.
"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, 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.
"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 along with all other shipping and leisure craft movements in the port."