Emergency tug is saved

The coastguard emergency tug based in Orkney has been saved from the axe.

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael learned of the news after speaking to the Tory government’s Transport Secretary Robert Goodwill.

It follows months of concern about what might happen with the Orkney-based Herakles.

Earlier this month it emerged Mr Goodwill had promised an announcement on the tug “very soon”.

Emergency tugs were originally introduced in light of the Braer disaster of 1993.

Following a report by Lord Donaldson, four emergency vessels were initially stationed in UK waters, with two of those based north of the border.

But following a major spending review in 2010, the then coalition government at Westminster launched plans to scrap the vessels.

A compromise saw the one remaining tug for the whole of the UK stationed in Orkney, but fears were raised more recently that even that vessel may be scrapped.

The Herakles contract was due to expire at the end of March, however earlier this year she was given a six month reprieve in the hope that a long-term solution could be found.

The Shetland Times has been running a campaign to save the vessel from the chop.

The news has been welcomed by council leaders and Shetland’s Westminster representative.

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said: “Today’s announcement is a victory for all those who have fought so hard to make the case for the Emergency Towing Vessel stationed here to protect our coastline and waters.

“The tug is our environmental insurance policy and it should never have been threatened in this way, but I am delighted that our campaign has been successful. I hope that the government will now be more creative in how they use this vessel and that there will be no further uncertainty over its future.”

Shetland Islands Council’s political leader, Gary Robinson, added: “It is clearly good news that the government has agreed to honour its commitment to funding the presence of an ETV in the northern isles beyond September.

“It is critical that this emergency support continues, especially given the increase in shipping relating to the oil and gas industry and the severe conditions which can exist around our shores. We look forward to seeing more detail of the level of support which will be provided.”


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