The UK Government has decided to extend financial support for the last remaining emergency towing vessel (ETV) in the country, based in Orkney.
The four ETVs stationed around the UK were introduced after the ‘Braer’ and ‘Sea Empress’ tanker disasters, but three were withdrawn following the 2010 public spending review.
The contract for the final vessel, covering northern Scotland, was due to expire at the end of March this year but was extended by the government in the face of warnings about the threat to safety.
The MCA will now commence tendering for a new contract for a period of up to five years. Under the new contract, the MCA will seek to recover costs of the ETV from the shipping industry wherever possible and it will also examine long-term opportunities for the vessel to take on low-risk commercial work. Any costs recovered will go towards additional patrolling and crew training, the government says.
‘The tug is our environmental insurance policy and it should never have been threatened in this way, but I am delighted that our campaign has been successful,” Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said. “I hope that the government will now be more creative in how they use this vessel and that there will be no further uncertainty over its future.”