Orkney MSP Liam McArthur and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, along with PSPC Jamie Stone, have written to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to highlight the importance of keeping the emergency tow vessel (ETV) based in Orkney.
The tug, which was recently involved in the rescue of a Dutch cargo vessel, is approaching the end of its current contract. The MCA scrapped three tugs serving the rest of the UK in 2011. Concerns have been raised that the existing tug will be abandoned when UK Government funding is withdrawn for in March.
In their letter to the MCA's Chief Executive, Mr McArthur, Mr Scott and Mr Stone stressed the importance of ensuring a salvage tug is available in the Northern Isles coastal waters.
Speaking about the letter, Tavish Scott said:
“The Tory UK Government were quick to agree to the MCA’s reduction in ETVs in 2010. The remaining salvage vessel based in Orkney covers the whole of the north of Scotland and all of the sea traffic that passes through it. It would be the height of folly to remove the tug from providing the marine emergency cover that the area needs. The Fair Isle channel is a busy maritime route for vessels of different sizes, nationalities and destinations.
“I fear the UK Government know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Why are they so determined to forget the recommendations of the Donaldson Report that followed the grounding of the Braer oil tanker on the south end of Shetland in 1993? 85,000 tonnes of crude oil were spilt into the marine environment. Only the worst run of gales in living memory saved an environmental and economic disaster.
"So cutting funding for the current tug would demonstrate a complete lack of common sense and could have disastrous consequences. Therefore I hope the MCA will recognise the folly of their Ministerial masters and find a way to maintain funding for the salvage tug covering the Northern Isles.”
Commenting, Liam McArthur said:
“The recent rescue of a cargo ship in the waters around Hoy provides yet another timely reminder of how essential the ETV service is. The case for retaining the ETV in the Northern Isles was successfully made back in 2011 and remains as strong today as it did back then. Nothing has changed, and nor should the support of Ministers and the MCA.”
Former MSP and candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Jamie Stone, commented:
“In the nightmare scenario of a marine spillage in or around the Pentland Firth, the tug is the first line of defence for the north coast of the mainland. Any failure to maintain this defence would be nothing less than a betrayal of a remote and special part of the United Kingdom.”