SAVE THE TUG: ‘Frustrated’ Carmichael demands emergency session in Westminster

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has written to the chairwoman of Parliament’s Transport Select Committee after being left “deeply frustrated” after a crunch meeting to discuss the future of emergency coastguard tugs.

Alistair Carmichael
Alistair Carmichael

Mr Carmichael is demanding an urgent evidence session with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency over the government’s decision to withdraw tug provision – potentially in weeks. The existing contract is due to expire by the end of March prompting concern that the Northern Isles-based tug Herakles could be removed.

Last week, as reported in The Shetland Times, a seminar was held in Edinburgh so the MCA could hear from “stakeholders”. It was attended by MCA chief executive Sir Alan Massey but Mr Carmichael was not impressed with the way the MCA has handled the risk assessment which was presented at the meeting.

He said: “I left the seminar in Edinburgh last Wednesday deeply frustrated at the MCA’s stance on the future of our lifeline coastguard tugs. Their poor risk assessment was lacking in basic data, offered microscopic analysis of the risks of collisions (which has never been a problem in the past) and failed to understand the difficulties of the private sector stepping into cover.

“I have tried to secure an urgent question in Parliament and have been constantly pressing ministers to change course. Now I believe the

Government and the MCA need to be hauled to Parliament to explain in front of the Transport Committee why these cuts are necessary, and why, with barely seven weeks to the end of the contract, no contingency plan is in place.”

In a bid to ensure that parliamentary session takes place Mr Carmichael has written to committee chairwoman Louise Ellman.

He said that in the last parliament, the Transport Committee reported on the plans to remove the emergency tugs which serve the Northern and Western Isles. He believes the matter needs urgent attention.

“Let us not forget why we have the ETVs in the first place: the grounding of the Braer in Shetland in 1993. The subsequent, comprehensive report from Lord Donaldson could not be clearer in calling for permanent at sea vessels. If such an accident was to occur again, the consequences of not having a locally-stationed coastguard tug would be awful.”

• This newspaper last week launched a Keep the Tug campaign and petition demanding the retention of the tug Herakles. Add your name to the petition by following this link. #KeepTheTug


Add Your Comment
  • Leslie Lowes

    • February 17th, 2016 18:05

    It is deeply worrying that the MCA do not appear to plan to retain the emergency tugboat in Northern waters. I heartily approve of Alistair Carmichael’s action in taking them before the Parliamentary Committee on Transport to explain their actions, or rather, inactions. An oil spill around any of our northern shores could cost billions of pounds to clean up and the tug boat is the best way of avoiding a calamity like that. If the government don’t like the cost, it will pale into insignificance compared to cleaning up a major oil spill if a tanker comes ashore. I would urge readers to sign the petition in the Shetland Times, available online as well, via Care 2.


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.