Rosyth International Container Terminal

Tagged with: Casework status: Open Casework type: Industry Casework type: Transport Megasites: Firth of Forth Site designations: SPA
Ringed plover charadrius hiaticula, adult amongst razorshells. Side view. Titchwell beach, Norfolk


We are supporting Scottish Natural Heritage's objection to a new development which could cause significant harm to the Firth of Forth Special Protection Area.

Port Babcock Rosyth have applied for a Harbour Revision Orders (HRO) to allow creation of a new container freight terminal on brownfield land at the Port of Rosyth, in Fife. 

Although the new development would be on existing dockland, there would be a need for significant new dredging to allow access for container ships. This may impact on the neighbouring intertidal mudflats, important for a range of bird species and part of Firth of Forth Special Protection Area. 

A public inquiry into the HRO was held in early 2012. Following publication of the inquiry report in March 2013, Scottish Ministers lodged a revised HRO for approval by the Scottish Parliament after the summer recess. However, no assessment has yet been made of the effects of dredging enabled by the HRO. The applicant and Scottish Minsters suggest that this can be deferred until further licences are applied for under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. In our view, this risks prejudicing objective consideration of future applications for marine licences, without which the terminal cannot operate.

Instead, we are calling on Scottish Ministers put the HRO on hold, until the applicant has provided adequate information on the dredging proposals. This should in turn allow a proper assessment to be made of the environmental impacts of the project as a whole, as required by European law.


Why is it worth fighting for?

The Firth of Forth is a complex estuarine site, stretching for more than 100km west to east with a wide range of coastal and intertidal habitats.

The best shorebird habitat is designated as the Firth of Forth Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive, because of its internationally important numbers of waterfowl including bar-tailed godwit, ringed plover and shelduck.

Extensive mud-flats in the inner firth support a rich invertebrate fauna, providing important food sources for the large numbers of migrating and wintering waterbirds which depend on the estuary.

At Rosyth, intertidal mud and sand flats lie immediately to the west of the proposed container terminal and form part of the Firth of Forth SPA. Although there would be no direct land take from the SPA by the terminal itself, there is a significant risk that creation and maintenance of the new access channel will indirectly lead to the loss or deterioration of intertidal habitat, by erosion, accretion or slumping, or by a combination of all processes, under different wave and tidal conditions.  

Regrettably, no information has been supplied to allow a proper assessment of this risk to be carried out, as required by the EU Habitats Directive in order to ensure there will be no significant damage to the SPA.  

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Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, in flight at last light, Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Lancashire

Our position

In March 2011, we objected to a Harbour Revision Order (HRO) which would enable development by Port Babcock Rosyth Limited of a new container freight terminal on brownfield land at the Port of Rosyth, in Fife.

Our primary concern relates to the possible effects of dredging on the Firth of Forth SPA. We do not believe that Babcock have done sufficient work to show that the dredging work would not cause significant harm to the SPA. This must be addressed before any development can proceed. 

Following an objection on similar grounds by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), we joined forces with them at the public inquiry into the HRO held in early 2012. At the inquiry, the applicant suggested for the first time that Scottish Ministers could make the HRO without needing to consider the effects of dredging on the SPA until a subsequent, marine licensing stage.

We strongly disagree with this position. It fails to consider the project as a whole, as required by both the EIA and Habitats Directives, and instead "salami-slices" the consenting process, with the consequence that the effects of dredging on the SPA may fail to be properly assessed at either stage. Because the HRO would give the applicant the basic right to dredge the access channel, we feel very strongly that it would not be appropriate to delay assessment of the effects of dredging to a later stage, but rather to delay determination of the HRO until it is possible to assess the effects of dredging.

Therefore, we were surprised and extremely disappointed when in June 2013, by lodging a revised HRO with the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Ministers indicated their clear intention to follow the consenting timetable suggested by the applicant. We will continue to argue that the HRO should not be progressed on its own, and all of the effects of the project as a whole must be properly assessed before the HRO is consented, so that if measures are needed to protect the birds using the SPA, they can be properly quantified and implemented.  


  • June 2013
    Amended HRO laid before the Scottish Parliament.
  • May 2013
    We write to Transport Scotland, making no objection to the HRO amendments, but asking for the HRO process to be put on hold.
  • March 2013
    Inquiry report published; Transport Scotland consult on proposed amendments to the HRO.
  • January - March 2012
    Public inquiry hearings; we attend and support SNH throughout.
  • December 2011
    Following detailed discussions with Scottish Natural Heritage, we decide to withdraw as main parties to the inquiry, but continue to support the SNH case
  • October 2011
    We submit a Statement of Case to the Inquiry
  • September 2011
    We attend a pre-inquiry meeting in Rosyth
  • June 2011
    We sustain our objection in spite of additional information, as there is still insufficient evidence to show there will be no impact on Firth of Forth SPA
  • March 2011
    We object to proposed Harbour Revision Order (HRO)


The Rosyth International Container Terminal Harbour Revision Order 2013. PDF, 125Kb

RSPB briefing: Rosyth International Container Terminal - Sept 2013

Public local inquiry in connection with the Rosyth international container terminal. PDF, 171Kb

Statement of Case