“Gratitude and commendation” deserved for lifeboat and coastguard efforts in Storm Babet

23 Oct 2023

RNLI lifeboat volunteers and coastguard helicopter crew who worked tirelessly to rescue people during Storm Babet deserve “gratitude and commendation”, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has said today in Parliament.

Speaking during a ministerial statement on the impact of Storm Babet, Mr Carmichael highlighted the work of the Lerwick lifeboat in saving the Danish trawler Westbank, and the actions of the coastguard helicopter airlifting 45 workers from the then-endangered Stena Spey drilling rig. Mr Carmichael also warned against proposals to quadruple the response time for the Shetland coastguard helicopter.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said:

“The minister may not be aware that the BBC website has confirmed in the last hour that there are now three confirmed deaths in Scotland as a consequence of Storm Babet, each one a tragedy, and I’m sure we all send our sympathies and condolences to the families.

“The loss of life, however, could have been so much worse but for the willingness of others to put themselves in harm’s way. In Shetland, the Lerwick lifeboat was at sea for 18 hours, in atrocious conditions to save the lives and the boat of the Danish trawler Westbank. The coastguard helicopter airlifted 45 workers from the Stena Spey offshore drilling rig.

“Does the minister agree that they deserve our gratitude and commendation? Will she have a word with her colleagues in the Department for Transport who are currently proposing that the response time for the Shetland coastguard helicopter be increased from 15 minutes to 60?”

Responding, DEFRA minister Rebecca Pow said:

“Of course I send condolences for all three of those deaths – any death is tragic. I also want to commend the lifeboat team that have done spectacular work rescuing that trawler and indeed the oil rig. It is a tremendous story and accolade for them. I’m not sure I’m the one that can trigger that commendation but I’m sure that it will be fed in and I will pass your comments on to the Department for Transport.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“The work of the lifeboat and coastguard crews over the last week has been exceptional and we can all be proud of the actions they have taken to protect life in the most challenging conditions. The events of the past week should be a warning against any attempt to scale back these vital services – we can never take safety at sea for granted.”