Northern Isles MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed the Government’s decision to extend the provision of the Orkney-based Emergency Towing Vessel for 6 months beyond the current contract ending in 6 weeks.
The Transport Minister, Robert Goodwill, announced in the House of Commons on Monday that the Herakles tug, whose contract was set to end on 31st March, will remain until 30th September 2016.
Mr Carmichael now wants the MCA to provide a more comprehensive risk assessment and has also invited the Government to meet local stakeholders, councillors and industry figures in the Northern Isles to discuss the long-term future of the coastguard tug.
Commenting after the debate in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said:
“I am delighted that the government has announced this extension to the contract and that we shall not be left without cover after the end of March. Although you would not expect any minister to admit it, this is an acceptance of what I have said for some time now, namely that the work done by the MCA in its risk assessment is inadequate and that the level of risk to which we would be exposed by removal of the tug would be unacceptable.
“The minister has agreed to meet me with council representatives and is keen to visit the isles to see the tug on station. We still have a fight on our hands here to justify the expenditure but the case for keeping the tug is a strong one. It is up to us in the isles to make it – no one will do it for us.
“There is no getting away from the fact that the cost of this tug is significant. I happen to believe it is a sensible insurance policy as the cost of another oil spill like the Braer would be enormous. The fact is that the cost of chartering tugs has rarely been cheaper than it is at the moment. The minister could achieve significant savings for the tax payer by committing to a long term deal now. This is the time to act.”