WITH so much heated debate surrounding the subject of LNG and shipping, the Merc decided to put your questions and concerns to Milford Haven Port Authority chief Ted Sangster. Below are his responses to questions submitted by Merc readers.

Q. Are there sufficient risk assessments for Pembrokeshire County Council to prepare a meaningful emergency plan?

A. Only Pembrokeshire County Council can give a comprehensive and authoritative answer to this, but in my view, yes. We have undertaken many risk assessments and shared these with the council in the development of an emergency plan which links in with theirs as well as those of the emergency services. We are happy to continue to supply any further detail required to the council or working with others - for example our emergency planning staff have attended LNG courses alongside Fire Authority staff.

Q. Has an independent QRA been conducted into the consequences of a major LNG spill?

A. As well as making use of work carried out or commissioned by others, the port authority has 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. These relate both to specific sites, as the Royal Haskoning risk assessment for Dragon LNG, and to more generic situations.

Q. What differences are there between the HSE risk assessment for the Dragon LNG jetty (document 13) and the one undertaken by Royal Haskoning?

A. The HSE did not run its assessment to its full conclusion for the marine side, as part way through the process they realised that their responsibility was for the land site and terminal. Thus their work looks more alarmist as they identify the hazards but do not complete the risk assessment in the way that Royal Haskoning did - which concluded that the likelihood of an event occurring was so remote as to be well within acceptable levels.

Q. Has the port authority evaluated the conclusions of HSE document 13 and what conclusions did it reach?

A. We are aware of the HSE work but we have undertaken and commissioned our own assessments to guide our planning for LNG shipping.

Q. What does the port authority consider the worst possible scenario to be?

A. The question should be "what is the worst possible credible scenario?". Loss of containment of cargo would be the worst' scenario, but all the risk assessment work we have undertaken or had access to shows that there is no credible risk of that happening. The worst credible scenario would be an incident which causes damage to a ship or a jetty, but not to cargo.

Q. What is the port authority doing to cater for it?

A. A major, ongoing thrust of our work as a port authority is to identify ways in which we can minimise the possibility of collisions between ships and jetties, regardless of their cargos. Thus we have made significant investments recently in training, new radar and computer software to help us manage shipping generally, which will come into play for LNG shipping as well. With LNG vessels specifically in mind, we have introduced still more measures - a new turning circle off the South Hook jetty, the provision of guard tugs and the introduction of speed limits on passing ships, additional dredging, new navigation aids - all of which will minimise the possibility of incidents, and by definition, then, further reduce the risk of loss of containment, even though it is not a credible risk.

Q. Have you considered the possibility of major loss of cargo resulting from collision, fire or deliberate act of sabotage -would such an event endanger lives?

A. We have certainly considered it, but as above, the risk assessments show this is not a credible risk.

Q. Have you considered the possibility of Rapid Phase Transition?

A. Yes, along with other consequences of a release of cargo.

Q. Is the Angle Lifeboat Station within the impact zone of a credible spill at the South Hook terminal?

A. Given that a spill is unlikely as given above, then no.

Q. I understand that the LNG jetty pipeline will run directly overhead at the approach to the South Hook jetty. Do you think that makes it vulnerable to a terrorist attack?

A. The terminal's security plans and those of the port are vetted and passed by the security services. It would not be appropriate for us to comment beyond this, other than to confirm that the port's plans under the ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility) Code security regime are in place, have been approved by TRANSEC (the security arm of the Department for Transport) and are regularly tested and monitored by TRANSEC.

Q. What difference will LNG make to the man on the street?

A. Greater security of supply for gas in his home and at his work across the UK.

Q. How will the town of Milford Haven benefit?

A. It will see over 100 extra permanent marine-related jobs, more permanent jobs on the terminals themselves, and a flow of other work into the economy from the services, maintenance support. The presence of LNG will act as a catalyst for further developments locally, bring more spending power in the area, raise the international profile of the town, and provide greater security of supply of energy. It's good news all round.