Saturday, 2 June 2007

Does the future of Islay whisky depend on 3 centimeters...?

Following the catastrophic consequences of major ecologic accidents like the one of the Erica a few years ago and so many other tankers which seem to break just like an eggshell in the middle of the ocean, the European Commission has taken some decisions. One of those is the adoption of a rule obliging the tankers to be double skinned by 2008. This will make them much less vulnerable. Another advantage of mandatory use of this recent technology is that old rotten vessels owned by some unscrupulous shipowners will not be authorized to sail anymore. As long as it floats...

But this European rule has some unexpected consequences in domains which seem to have no link with the world of oil.
Anticipating this new security rules, the Argyll and Bute council decided to make some important alterations to the pier at Bruichladdich where the tankers use to berth alongside. The double skin makes the vessels bigger and heavier and they draw 4.97 meter where the sea depth is 5 meter. A clearance of 3 cm... Very dangerous and the tanker ran aground several times already.
So in fact the tanker only can work securely by fine weather and calm sea, which is not so often the case in this part of the Atlantic ocean. Further, the tanker cannot be full loaded. As a consequence, the oil supply has run out three times already this year.
Distilleries are important users of oil and depend on it to heat their stills. No oil, no distillation. No distillation, no whisky.
Another consequence could be a substantial increase of the price of Islay whisky. It did not need this 3 centimeter argument to increase anyway... Whisky prices demonstrate easily this last few months they are able to increase without any artificial boost.
This pier affair will not arrange things. Anyway this pier will have to be checked and modified soon or late. And cost additional money. Somebody will have to pay for this.
Let's hope some distillers will not use this excuse for another price increase, arguing that this pier problems make it more difficult to export their whisky...
I hope this few lines will not give them a new idea...

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