Concern over safety in Falmouth Bay was top of the agenda at a public meeting of the Falmouth Harbour Commis-sioners at the National Maritime Museum.

Last year there were two serious accidents in the Carrick Roads, one of which claimed the life of a St Mawes man.

A full investigation by the Marine Investigation Agency followed and reports subsequently published with a number of recommendations.

But the increase in leisure craft using the Carrick Roads was something the Commissioners and others had to cater for in the future and safety would be paramount.

Nearly 50 people attended the meeting including Friends of the Earth who were equally concerned about environmental issues and the plans to operate ship-to-ship oil transfers in the bay.

Commissioners said they were still working on plans which could see up to 50,000 tonnes of oil passed between tankers off the coast of Falmouth.

Previous plans for ship-to-ship transfers were not favourably received by Cornwall county council in January this year over fears of a spill and the damage it would cause to the coastline.

Deputy chairman Peter Morgan said: "The decisions have not been made yet. Plans are still in an early phase of being redrawn and we are still in discussion with the respective government bodies, including the department of transport."

Friends of the Earth member Betty Levene said: "A lot of people assume that because the county council's environment policy development scrutiny committee voted against ship-to-ship oil transfers in the bay in January, we are now safe from this scheme.

"Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is up to everyone to continue to remind the FHC just how abhorrent the plan is to those who have the long-term future of the local marine environment and the communities who depend on it at heart."

Another member of the environmental group, Sally Austin-Brown, asked the commissioners: "If ship-to-ship oil transfers do go ahead and there is a spillage, who is responsible for cleaning it up? And who will foot the bill?"

Harbour master Captain Mark Sansom said that if there was a spillage, the cost of the clean-up would be met by the ship's insurance and would not have to be paid for by the public.

Harbour Commissioners, who presented a five year strategy, had made it clear they wanted to be open and transparent about all aspects of their operations.

The strategy is still in development and will be widely consulted. After completion, it will be regularly reviewed to ensure that it remains appropriate and in line with current legislation and harbour use.

Behind it is the need "To ensure the ongoing viability and future prosperity of the harbour to the benefit of the region."

It has been produced by the new regeneration strategy sub-committee of Falmouth Harbour Commissioners, led by Mr Morgan, Dave Ellis and Peter Fish, a former commanding officer of RNAS Culdrose. The idea is to maintain the balance of managing a busy commercial port whilst ensuring the safety of all users both leisure and commercial, in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The safety strategy specifically addresses FHC's role in protecting the environment and maintaining a safe harbour for its many and diverse users but at the same time foster and promote new and existing sustainable commercial enterprise.

The Commissioners also reviewed the past year during which the consultation began over ship-to-ship transfers of oil.

The Commissioners have written to the Secretary of State for Transport requesting guidance as to the best practice in considering STS operations.

Problems for large cruise liners having to anchor outside the harbour because of depth of water had also come under discussion and delivering improved facilities was ongoing. No dredging took place last year.

Harbour dues income from commercial ships rose to £228,848 from £160,735 in 2004. This rise was largely due to an increase in the average size of vessels calling for bunkers. Commercial moorings income was £15,883, down from £20,983 in 2004. Income from pilotage services was £338,312 compared to £367,291 in 2004. Pilot boat income was £275,206 compared to £274,435 in 2004. Demand for small craft moorings remained very strong and residents moorings income was £119,663 compared to £117,754. Income for the visitors moorings and anchorage was £23,496 compared to £22,620 in 2004.

The Visitors Yacht Haven again proved popular during the summer months with summer income of £76,127. This compared to £80,726 in 2004. Winter berthing performed strongly. Receipts were £27,067 compared to £13,318 in 2004. The fuel barge performed well turning over £130,629 compared to £93,609 in 2004.

The demand for boat park berthing facilities remains strong. The income for the boat park was £54,390 compared to £51,014 in 2004. The income from Custom House Quay, including car parking, was £116,817 compared to £115,627 in 2004.

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