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by Jenni Davidson
15 July 2016
Island councils welcome extension of emergency towing vessel contract in Northern Isles

Island councils welcome extension of emergency towing vessel contract in Northern Isles

Stromness from MV Hamnavoe - image credit: Katherine via Flickr

Scotland’s island councils have welcomed the five-year extension of the emergency towing vessel (ETV) contract in the Northern Isles by the UK Government.

The UK Government announced this week that is would be extending the contract for the ETV, which provides assistance to ships around the Scottish coast.

The current contract is due to end in September 2016 and there was concern that it might not be renewed.

Earlier this year UK Government transport minister Robert Goodwill had asked the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to look at alternative options for towing provision in Scotland.

However, this week Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said: “I am very pleased that the UK Government can guarantee the future funding of the emergency towing vessel stationed in the Northern Isles.

“The islands councils have impressed upon us how important it is to maritime safety in the area. The UK Government has listened to what they have said, and is now able to secure the funding to maintain this vital safety vessel in the north of Scotland.”

Shetland Islands Council leader Councillor Gary Robinson:  “It is clearly good news that the Government has agreed to honour its commitment to funding the presence of an ETV in the Northern Isles beyond September.

“It is critical that this emergency support continues, especially given the increase in shipping relating to the oil and gas industry and the severe conditions which can exist around our shores. We look forward to seeing more detail of the level of support which will be provided.”

The ETV was originally introduced following the Braer disaster, when an oil tanker ran aground off Shetland in 1993.

However, there have been calls for a second vessel to be based in the Western Isles.

The leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Angus Campbell, said: “Whilst it is welcome that the contract for the extension of the current ETV based in the Northern Isles, it is disappointing that the Government has not recognised the need for a second vessel to help protect the mariners and the environment of the west coast.

“I believe that the number of incidents over the past few years highlight the very serious risks around our coastal waters.”

Vice-convener of Orkney Islands Council Councillor Jim Foubister added: “We’ve been in discussion with the UK Government for many months on this.

“They have listened to us and recognised that this service is vital and we’re very pleased that they have guaranteed future funding for one vessel. Our preferred option though is for two - and we hope to continue discussions with them on this."

The MCA will now begin the tendering process for the new contract, with the costs of the ETV to be recovered from the shipping industry wherever possible to reduce costs to the taxpayer.

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