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.
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