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Petition on the Maltese Government’s plans to berth a floating liquefied gas storage unit close to shore and the risks it poses

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Petition to the European Parliament on the Maltese Government’s plans to berth a floating liquefied gas storage unit close to shore and the risks it poses to residents

The Government of Malta has proposed that a floating Liquid Natural Gas (LNG)-carrying vessel with a reported capacity of 140,000 cubic meters of LNG will be berthed in Marsaxlokk Bay in Malta. This is intended as a storage supply for the natural gas-fired power plant being installed in the bay.

The petitioners believe that this floating gas storage unit may run contrary to the provisions of the SEVESO II Directive, particularly as this unit will be berthed so close to a heavily populated residential area, as well as an operational power station and land-based gas storage facilities.

The residents in the immediate vicinities of Marsaxlokk, Birzebbugia and Zejtun, as well as of the outlying areas are concerned for their safety and the risks being faced by their communities. Only a preliminary Quantitative Risk Assessment has so far been carried out, using generic software.

In contrast, other EU Member States with similar projects, such as those off the Italian ports of Livorno and Ancona, have ensured that safety is paramount and that the legitimate concerns of residents were addressed by stationing the depot a safe distance away from them, with proper security zones around the vessel. None of the above safety provisions are envisaged in the Maltese Government's proposed intentions.

Article 7 of the Directive outlines that "Member States shall require the operator to draw up a document setting out his major-accident prevention policy and to ensure that it is properly implemented. The major-accident prevention policy established by the operator shall be designed to guarantee a high level of protection for man and the environment by appropriate means, structures and management systems."

Article 17 also states that "Member States shall prohibit the use or bringing into use of any establishment, installation or storage facility, or any part thereof where the measures taken by the operator for the prevention and mitigation of major accidents are seriously deficient."

Marsaxlokk bay already houses a concentration of power generation and fuel storage facilities as well as very busy in-bay shipping movements of the Malta Freeport. No Maritime Risk Assessment has been carried out and one should be done prior to the issuing of any permit. It is unclear whether the consultation zones on this project have been established.

In the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - A Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters, the Commission signalled its intention to carry out a study on current practices of hazard and risk mapping in Member States. These should focus on disasters with potential cross-border impacts (e.g. floods or accidental release of chemicals and radio-nuclear agents), exceptional events (major storms), large-scale disasters (earthquakes), and disasters for which the cost of recovery measures appears to be disproportionate when compared to that of preventive measures.

The risks associated with the implementation of the project of conversion of power facilities to gas would be greatly mitigated if the gas storage for this plant be moved to a secure location and a safe distance from residential areas, outside the bay.

The petitioners urge the European Parliament to call upon the European Commission to investigate this risk to the public’s safety.

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