In a debate over the UK Government’s Net Zero strategy Mr Carmichael asked for an update from the energy minister and Ministry of Defence colleagues on actions to ensure the security of energy and other infrastructure assets.
The Russian tug Nikolay Chiker has been steaming back and forth in areas close to a number of important oil and gas pipelines feeding the Sullom Voe Terminal and the Shetland Gas Plant. A (NATO member) Norwegian mine sweeper shadowed the vessel for a period on Wednesday before steaming to Lerwick for a Shetland Bus wreath laying ceremony on Friday.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Carmichael said:
“There is more to energy security than just what we produce and where – it is also about the protection of infrastructure and assets.
“All this week we had had a Russian tug steaming up and down to the east of Shetland in the vicinity of the pipelines serving Brent and Ninian. This morning that tug has gone round to the northwest of Shetland and is now doing the same thing in the vicinity of the pipeline servicing the Laggan field.
“It is a merchant vessel, but we know that the Russian military often purpose merchant vessels in this way.
“So can I ask the minister if he will speak to his colleagues in the Ministry of Defence to see first of all, if they know what is going on, and secondly if they don’t know will they then find out, and third: what will we be doing in the long term to protect these vital national assets?”
Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero Graham Stuart MP gave assurances that he would follow up “offline” with colleagues in the Ministry of Defence.
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“No one seems to know what this vessel is doing but if we don’t at least try to find out then we shall never know.
“I would rather raise concerns now and be told there is nothing to worry about than sit back and find out later that we are dealing with a catastrophe of some sort. This is critical energy and telecommunications infrastructure we are talking about – it has got to be a priority.”