Emergency tug contract extended again as talks on standby replacement continue
Talks aimed at securing the long-term future of emergency tug cover around Shetland will continue for a further month.
Treasury civil servants and industry leaders are still holding discussions about indemnity ahead of a planned new arrangement with the oil and gas sector.
It means yet another contract extension has been signed off by the Department of Transport to the coastguard-operated Anglian Sovereign – this time until the end of May.
The long-term plan is to make a standby vessel, believed to be the Grampian Frontier, instantly available to deal with any incident in waters around the isles.
It is understood the vessel would be stationed in or around the Schiehallion oil field and would be a maximum of 12 hours from the furthest reaches of the Northern Isles “patch”.
A spokesman for the Scotland Office said: “Funding has been extended for a further month until the end of May for discussions to take place on a commercial arrangement.”
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said: “This extension of funding is further evidence of the determination of the coalition to ensure that coastline protection is maintained.
“There remains a small number of issues to be resolved, essentially around whose budget the costs will come from, and I hope that these will be resolved soon.”
Emergency tug cover provision was initially thrown into disarray when the coalition government announced plans to scrap the coastguard vessels as part of a major cost-cutting exercise.
However interim contracts have since been running to allow a more cost-effective business model to be developed.