Meeting to focus on the future of emergency towing vessel provision in the United Kingdom
The Maritime Coastguard Agency has invited stakeholders to a meeting to discuss the future of emergency towing vessel (ETV) provision in the United Kingdom. This move comes less than two months before the end of the current contract for the last remaining government funded ETV, which is currently based on the northern coast of Scotland.
The meeting, which will take place in Edinburgh on 10th February, will be attended by a range of stakeholders, including many of KIMO UK’s member authorities, one of which is Argyll and Bute Council.
The council’s representative on KIMO, Councillor Len Scoullar, said: ‘’Along with Comhairlie nan Eilean and Highland Council, we have serious concerns about both the current level of provision and the potential removal of the last remaining ETV.
‘’It is our view that this significantly increases the risk of a serious shipping incident which could have a grave effect on the local environment and economy.
‘’We want to see the reinstatement of the Minch tug based in Stornoway, as well as the retention of the tug based in Orkney.
‘’Last February the 120 metre cargo vessel Lysblink Seaway grounded near Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The Orkney-based ETV Heracles took 24 hours to arrive on the scene and only at that point could the vessel be moored safely nearby to allow counter-pollution teams to deal with leakage of diesel oil.
‘’If an ETV had been based in Stornoway it is quite possible that it would have arrived at the incident in enough time to pull the ship off the rocks at high tide, significantly reducing the risk of further damage and significant pollution.
‘’The Minches, Argyll coastal waters and the Firth of Clyde are all considered to be of high sensitivity and high risk to maritime incident, especially with the transport of nuclear waste. A lack of ETV provision on the west coast poses a major risk to mariners and the wider environment which supports key industries such as fishing, aquaculture and tourism.
‘’We will welcome this positive step and will be pleased to participate in this meeting.’’
More information will be provided following the meeting.
KIMO (Local Authorities International Environmental Organisation) is an association of coastal local authorities whose goal is to eliminate pollution from the Northern Seas. The organisation’s members include 75 local authorities representing over 6 million inhabitants in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the Faeroe Islands, the Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man. KIMO UK is the United Kingdom network of the organisation.
On 20 October 2011 the UK government revealed the national “spending review”. As part of the review it decided not to renew the contract for Emergency Towing Vessels around the UK potentially saving £32.5 million. After pressure was brought to bear, the Kirkwall based ‘Herakles’ was given a reprieve to provide ETV cover to the north and west of Scotland where it was believed there was insufficient cover from commercially available tugs. That reprieve comes to an end 31 March 2016 and the UK government has again concluded (in the November 2015 Spending Review) that funding for an ETV is not a spending priority. ETVs were first put in place after Lord Donaldson’s inquiry into the Braer oil spill in 1993.