Marine Environmental High Risk Areas (MEHRAs) are a UK national initiative first identified by the Donaldson Report (1994) whose remit was to improve the safety of shipping and increase protection of the environment. The report was commissioned following the Braer oil spill in 1993 and resulted in a total of 103 recommendations, including a definition of MEHRAs as:
“Comparatively limited areas of high sensitivity which are also at risk from shipping. There must be a realistic risk of pollution from merchant shipping.”
Routeing measures aim to encourage ships to follow routes where vessels are less likely to collide with each other, run ashore or get into difficulties. They also aim to reduce the scope for a disaster if a ship does get into difficulty and direct ships away from areas where pollution would be highly damaging. Given the right of vessels to use such areas, the purpose of MEHRAs is to draw attention to where extra protection from shipping is desirable. To give MEHRA’s maximum effect the intention of the UK government is to restrict any ‘designations’ to relatively small areas of coastline. Publicised information in the form of charts and electronic navigational aids will be made available to ship masters, which should be taken into account when planning passages. The master is then expected to observe the highest standards of care, exercising extreme caution when transiting through these areas.