NATIONAL GRID has been accused of double standards by allowing a detailed route map of its controversial pipeline across Wales to be sold over the internet while refusing to give similar information to local groups because of fears of a terrorist threat.
Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins has written to National Grid to find out what is being done to protect residents living near the pipeline after she discovered that a gas industry research consultancy was selling a report containing a detailed map of the route.
Ms Jenkins said, “National Grid has refused to discuss emergency procedures with residents on the grounds that to do so could endanger national security.
“Yet I have found an internet site which sells maps of the pipeline’s position. Surely this is a breach of their ‘national security’ procedures.
“Any potential terrorist with a credit card could get his hands on such information very easily. All residents of those areas affected by the pipeline want to know is what is being done to protect them in the event of an emergency.”
A spokeswoman for National Grid said, “Safety is paramount in all aspects of National Grid’s work. We do not disseminate detailed route maps of our pipelines; however, affected landowners and local residents are familiar with the pipeline route in their locality.
“For the last three years, project overview maps of the pipeline route have been available on our website, in our information material and at local project community events.”
Meanwhile an accident report on a tanker which crashed into a jetty at Milford Haven – where LNG gas is unloaded for transmission in a gaseous state through the pipeline – has revealed that warnings about the vessel’s control system failures were ignored.
Prospero collided with the Semilogistics terminal at Milford Haven last December when the 18,000-tonne tanker’s control system suddenly moved to 70% full power but the ship’s master was not alerted to the failure.
A report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) says there had been two previous and two subsequent control failures involving the Prospero and her sister ship Bro Sincero but no action had been taken.
The report made stringent recommendations in order to avoid a repeat collision.
A spokesman for Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth said, “It is incredible that a tanker that had experienced previous accidents and failings was allowed into Milford Haven without any action being taken.
“Vehicles that fail their MoT are not allowed onto the road yet it seems that a defective ship carrying a hazardous cargo is allowed to sail into one of the country’s busiest ports.
“We also now learn that the ship’s control systems were so complicated and specialised that nobody on the ship fully understood how they worked.
“It is impossible for local pilots to fully understand all the different types of control systems on modern ships. This means that more responsibility is likely to be taken by the ship’s master with the result that more risks are likely to be taken as he is under pressure to stick to strict timetables to get the cargo in or out of port.
“This accident raises more serious concerns about the safety of shipping LNG into Milford Haven. Clearly, things are not as they should be.”
A spokesman for Milford Haven Port Authority said, “Friends of the Earth are seeing reds under the bed on this one, and their attempts to scare people by drawing erroneous conclusions are extremely unhelpful.
“The Port Authority, in conjunction with many others, has worked for several years now to determine the best way to handle LNG shipping. Prospero is not an LNG carrier – had she been, she would have been accompanied at all times by up to four tugs to guard against just such a loss of engine power.
“As the MAIB report states, pilots are engaged for their local knowledge – they are not MoT inspectors. All ships are legally obliged to declare any relevant past histories to ports they enter so that the Port Authority can decide whether to accept them or not. Prospero failed to do so, as the report also confirms.
“The public can have every confidence in our ability to handle LNG shipping; to conclude otherwise on the basis of one incident involving a non-LNG vessel is nothing short of scaremongering.”