MCA to consult on emergency tugs

A call has been made for all interested parties to rally in support of the retention of emergency tugs.

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael insists a multi-agency approach is required to fight for future use of the “crucial asset”.

Alistair Carmichael
Alistair Carmichael

The Maritime Coastguard Agency has pledged to consult on the future of tugs. But Mr Carmichael believes he and others keen to keep the vessels have “a fight on our hands”.

“A consultation is better than a downright refusal to fund. As I have long suspected it means that we have a fight on our hands to keep this most crucial asset which protects our seas and coastline.

“The case for the tug is strong and it now needs to be made by everyone who has an interest in retaining it.

“I would like to see all the different interested parties working together to make the strongest possible case, and that is what I will be working to achieve.”

He said the council should work together with maritime agencies, the Scottish government and the Lighthouse Board as well as representatives from the oil and gas industry to ensure emergency tugs can continue to serve waters surrounding the Northern Isles.

“They all have an interest in keeping this asset based locally, and they all need to be part of the movement that will make the case.”

A statement sent from the department for transport said: “The government fully recognises the importance of ensuring shipping activities off the coast of Scotland remain safe.

“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will consult with stakeholders and interested parties whilst reviewing shipping safety risks around the Northern and Western Isles in Scotland and looking into commercial towing options.”

It comes after fears tugs may be scrapped after news emerged the department for transport’s budget was set to be cut by 37 per cent over the next five years.

Four emergency tugs were once based around the UK following recommendations by Lord Donaldson in light of the Braer disaster in 1993.

But the previous coalition government opted to scrap them as it sought to claw back £30 million of savings.

Mr Carmichael, who at the time was deputy chief whip, argued for a deal which at least allowed a limited degree of cover to be retained.

The issue is now re-emerging because the contract for the now Orkney-based tug which serves the isles is due to expire in April.


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