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Safety fears over Vassilikos.

Brian Lait's article has focused attention once again on a safety 'elephant in the room' that will not go away. The pervasive lack of transparency and a reluctance (in some cases, refusal) by the key parties (Cyprus government, VTTV, Noble) to provide answers to pertinent questions, let alone convincing answers, is bound to raise concerns.

From the Minister for Energy's eventual reply to Mr Lait's questions, it would appear that the government has relied solely on the advice of consultants employed by Noble during the preparation of the Vassilikos Energy Complex Master Plan. It is quite normal for energy companies to employ or contract specialists in process safety, safety engineering, safety management etc to assist in systematic identification and assessment of risks and their mitigation. However, on projects of this scale within the scope of EU Seveso Directives II and III, it is also normal for an ISA (Independent Safety Assessor) to be appointed to evaluate and review the work and output of those specialists. An ISA is someone or usually a team of people who are totally independent of the operator and have the required expertise, credentials and impartiality.

In addition, or more likely in conjunction with an ISA, the competent authority as major hazard regulator is expected to evaluate the operator's compliance with safety and environmental requirements and take any appropriate action. At present, and possibly never, the government does not possess its own expertise to recognize major hazard risks on the ground or to properly evaluate, and if necessary challenge, operators' own safety reports coming under Seveso II Article 9 or Seveso III Article 10. A laissez-faire attitude will simply allow operators to rule the roost, to the possible detriment of public safety. For a worst-case image, think Mari-Vassilikos Disaster times twenty.

Dr Alan Waring, Larnaca

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Jun 16, 2014
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