A Z-Berth is a berth designated for occasional operational or recreational visits by nuclear-powered warships.
The definition was given in Hansard, Written Answers, May 5, 1989:
Ms. Gordon : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the purpose of a Z-berth ; if Z-berths have permanent safety precautions against radiological hazards ; and if he will publish in the Official Report the locations of all the Z-berths in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : A Z-berth is a berth designated for occasional operational or recreational visits by nuclear-powered warships. Its safety arrangements will include a public safety scheme prepared after discussion with the local authorities and civil emergency services, which will provide for a Royal Naval incident commander and a naval emergency monitoring team in the area to stand by throughout any such visit to respond to an emergency. The monitoring team has access to a supply of potassium iodate tablets, and carries out monitoring during the visit.
The United Kingdom Z-Berths are at Barrow-in-Furness, Barry, Brodick bay, Campbeltown, Cardiff, Coulport and Loch Long, Devonport and Plymouth Sound, Faslane, the Firth of Forth, Glen Mallan, Lamlash bay, Lerwick harbour and the Shetland Isles, Liverpool, Loch Ewe, Loch Fyne, Loch Goil, Loch Striven, Portland, Portree, Portsmouth, Raasay (Broadford bay), Rosyth, Rothesay, Southampton, Spithead, Thurso bay and Torbay.
A similar question in 1991 produced the following list:
Mr. Menzies Campbell
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the locations of all Z-berth sites in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Kenneth Carlisle
United Kingdom Z-berths, including buoys and anchorages, are at:
(Scottish sites are shown in italics. Barry is assumed to be Barry, South Wales.)
- Broadford Bay
- Brodick Bay
- Dales Voe
- Devonport and Plymouth Sound
- The Firth of Forth
- Glen Mallan
- Holy Loch
- Lamlash Bay
- Loch Ewe
- Loch Fyne
- Loch Goil
- Loch Long
- Loch Na Beiste
- Loch Striven
- Thurso Bay
Portsmouth Naval Base description
In a reply to Southampton City Council fax received in 1999, the Naval Base Commander Portsmouth, provided a detailed description of the purpose of a Z-Berth.
Although the council fax is not included, it is significant to note that the response includes a section which is clearly in response to a point regarding maintenance or repair, or to the granting of permission for a nuclear submarine with a damaged or leaking reactor.
List of Scottish Z-Berths c. 1995
In 1995, 17 Z-Berths were listed in Scotland (courtesy of the Scottish CND web site and its 2004 Fortress Scotland publication), but this number dropped fairly quickly thereafter, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991, with only six Z-Berths being reported active by 2000.
The following table ignores the earlier and more obscure Z-Berths listed before 1995, which could not be identified as no records have been found to date which provide coordinates for their locations.
Bold locations are those known to active at the time of writing, and may be subject to change. Click the link in the first column to open the map marker:
Scottish Z-berth usage in days for the years 1992 to 1994 is also shown, as reported in Hansard, May 7, 1996.
The requirements of the Radiation Emergency Preparedness and Public Information Regulations (REPPIR) 2001 meant that Z-Berths at commercial ports had temporarily ceased while the local authorities prepared and tested plans to comply with the regulations, work which is funded by the MoD.
Hansard reported a response by the Secretary of State with regard to Z-Berth status in 2006, which implied that only the Z-Berths at Broadford Bay, RNAD Coulport, Loch Ewe, and Loch Goil were still active then:
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the role of Z-berths; what the reasons are for reinstating them; and what criteria were used to choose locations for them. 
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 6 March 2006]: The Royal Navy has two kinds of nuclear submarine berths: X-berths at Devonport, Faslane and Barrow in Furness, which are the only places where maintenance on nuclear propulsion systems may be carried out; and Z-berths which are used for operational recuperation, material re-supply and personnel changeovers. Z-berths support the Royal Navy's ability to operate flexibly throughout UK waters, which is key to its contribution to the security of the UK homeland.
Until 2001, the Royal Navy could use Z-berths in Broadford Bay, Cardiff, RNAD Coulport, Hull, Liverpool, Loch Ewe, Loch Goil, Portland, Portsmouth and Southampton. With the introduction of the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations in 2001, responsibility for production of emergency planning arrangements transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the relevant local authority. The Royal Navy has therefore temporarily ceased use of Z-Berths in commercial ports to allow local authorities time to develop and test their own plans. The Ministry of Defence supports and pays for this work.
The following Z-berths are now covered by the necessary plans and are available for use by the Royal Navy: Broadford Bay, RNAD Coulport, Loch Ewe, Loch Goil and Portsmouth. The MOD is currently working with Southampton city council to finalise the emergency planning arrangements necessary to re-establish full Z-berth status in Southampton, and is discussing the planning requirements for the berth at Portland with Dorset county council and Weymouth and Portland borough council. Preliminary discussions have also been held with Sefton metropolitan borough council in Liverpool.
De-activations after 2000
On November 28, 2008, the Daily Record reported that the Royal Navy had asked the residents of Broadford to return their supplies of anti-radiation (iodine) tablets as the berth at Broadford Bay was no longer in use. Potassium iodide (KI tablets, or SSKI: Saturated Solution of KI liquid drops) can be given to people in a nuclear disaster area when fission has taken place, to block the uptake of radioactive iodine-131 by the thyroid.
- Scottish CND summary
- Scottish Parliament - Public Petitions Committee Official Report, February 6, 2001. Scottish CND petition (review of emergency planning measures for nuclear submarine accidents).
You may add a comment or offer further details which may be included in the page above.
Commenting has been disabled thanks to the attention of scum known as spam commenters
Recent Page Trail: