Marine safety risks over tug cover


Following the removal of emergency towing vessel (ETV) cover for Stornoway, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has raised his concerns with UK Government.

In a letter to UK Transport Minister Mike Penning, Mr Lochhead has sought assurances that arrangements for Stornoway will be urgently brought forward, after the ETV was removed from its station without formal notice or alternative cover in place.

Mr Lochhead said:

“The Scottish Government has had regular and positive engagement with the Scotland Office to work towards a long-term solution for emergency towing vessel cover in our waters. However, I was surprised and disappointed that the ETV based at Stornoway has been withdrawn without any alternative arrangements in place.

“Within 48 hours of the Stornoway tug’s removal, the grounding of the MV Flintersprint in the Minch was a clear reminder of the risks faced by shipping in this complex and environmentally sensitive stretch of water. It’s  completely unacceptable to leave this area without ETV cover.

“The UK Government has to accept the near universal view that there is no viable commercial alternative to emergency tug cover for the Western Isles – provision must be reinstated as soon as possible.

“Similarly, while we are pleased at the positive engagement with Oil and Gas UK towards a solution for the Northern Isles, it’s imperative any transition to a new arrangement does not involve any gap in ETV provision.

“We will continue to push the UK Government to fulfil its responsibilities in this matter. The safety of human life and the marine environment must come before budgetary constraints.”