‘Government turning a blind eye to islanders’ concerns’

A call has gone out for an emergency towing vessel to be stationed in the isles after another ‘near miss’ this week.

A cargo ship lost power and was drifting towards the coast of Lewis.

Comhairle leader Angus Campbell and Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil have led fresh calls for a coastguard tug to be permanently resident on the isles to “protect lives and the environment of the island”.

Campbell said: “Yet again last week we had an incident off the west coast which could have seriously impacted marine wildlife and the coastal environment. 

“We remain very concerned, as do colleagues in neighbouring councils, about the current situation which increases the risks for mariners and the environment and we will once again be making the case to the UK Government for a second ETV based on the west coast to address this serious issue.

“We are also raising the matter of deployment of the Herakles with the MCA.”

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil also insisted an ETV in the Hebrides was a necessary requirement as he blasted the Government for “turning a blind eye”.

“I understand this incident with the cargo ship happened last week yet there is no official record of such an incident – how many other ‘near misses’ do we not know about?” he queried.

“I have and will continue to call on the UK Government to reverse their short-sighted decision to remove an ETV from our waters.”

“Incidents such as these strengthens my argument that an ETV is needed.  The lack of an ETV is a worry for islanders, but sadly it is of no concern to the Department for Transport at Westminster who took the decision to remove the ETV.

“An ETV is an insurance policy and we need to be able to protect lives and the environment in the event of an incident, yet the UK Government continue to turn a blind eye.  We have no insurance policy in our islands and this is a huge concern.

“We must remember that it is not only cargo ships that use our waters, we warmly welcome cruise ships to our islands and they also need to know that in the event of an incident – help is at hand.  Cruise ships generate money for the economy which ultimately goes to Westminster in taxes, Westminster in turn, will not spend money on an ETV.

“I will write to MCA to call on them to record, and make public, all of these type of incidents at sea.  I want to know how many similar incidents have happened in our waters over the past few years.”