‘THE Whiddy Oil Terminal seems to be handed around like a hot potato from one owner to the next, despite being a critical part of our infrastructure as an island nation,’ maritime lawyer Michael Kingston said this week.
He was responding to the news that the terminal in Bantry Bay, site of the 1979 oil tanker disaster which claimed the lives of 51 people, including his father Tim Kingston, is to be put up for sale again.
The American firm Zenith agreed to purchase the 17-tank terminal from Philips 66 in 2014 and one of its main customers is the Irish State, which keeps the majority of its oil reserves there.
Between 30 and 50 staff are employed at the terminal and were informed of the company’s plans earlier this week.
Commenting on the news, Goleen native Kingston said: The workers there deserve a more stable future, and so do the people of Bantry, but of course we know from history that the focus has either been elsewhere in Ireland, or inept where Bantry is concerned.’
He said there should be legislative provision for long-term investment in the terminal and that ‘handing an oil terminal from one company to the next also compromises safety’.
‘The question I would ask is, who in our State is overseeing all these issues, and who is protecting the workers there, their incomes and their safety?’ he added.
A tribunal was held in the aftermath of the 1979 disaster which saw the tanker Betelgeuse explode while docked at a jetty at Whiddy. A subsequent legal case was thrown out of court, so nobody was ever prosecuted in respect of the 51 deaths, including 42 French citizens.
A spokesperson for the Department [of Energy] said it is aware of the possible sale of the Whiddy Oil facility, but added: ‘The sale of the facility, if it occurs, is not expected to have any implications for Ireland’s strategic oil reserve.’