Northern Isles MP, Alistair Carmichael, has pressed the government again on the future of the coastguard tug, and urged the Transport Minister to take proper account of a substantial and comprehensive risk assessment by the private sector of the dangers of removing the tug.
The contract for the coastguard tug expires on 30th September 2016 and the Transport Minister, Robert Goodwill, has promised an announcement on its future soon.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael asked:
Q: What recent discussions he has had on the future of emergency towing vessels in Scotland; and if will make a statement.
Mr Goodwill replied:
“I discussed the emergency towing capability in Scotland with the Rt Hon Gentleman on the 9th June. Indeed, we had an informal chat this week on this very subject. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has consulted with all interested parties about options for future provision beyond September 2016, and I expect to make an announcement very soon.”
Mr Carmichael said:
“I’m grateful and we look forward to hearing the Minister’s announcement. The last stakeholders’ group meeting convened by the MCA received a risk assessment – a proper substantial piece of work commissioned from the private sector which made it clear that to remove this tug would be an unacceptable risk for the coastal and island communities of Scotland. Will the Minister, when he comes to make a decision make sure that that risk assessment is on his desk and is at the heart of his considerations?”
“I absolutely reassure the House that I do understand the importance of maritime safety in the northern waters, not only from the point of view of pollution and we all know how difficult major oil pollution can be, but also in terms of our seafarers at risk on the waters.”
Commenting afterwards, Mr Carmichael said:
“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency eventually asked a private sector company, LOC, to provide a risk assessment about the removal of the coastguard tug. They did not hold back in their analysis of the dangers of there not being a permanent at sea vessel. Ministers, officials and stakeholders have all seen the report, so to ignore it now would be an act of criminal recklessness.
“The tug is our ultimate insurance policy. Time and time again I have pressed the government on this matter. I have been assured by Robert Goodwill that an announcement on the ETV’s future is imminent and whilst we await that I hope he is taking on board the widest range of views from the communities affected, including local authorities, businesses and relevant stakeholders.”