Oil rig incident shows need for west coast towing vessel

The Transocean Winner on the rocks at Dalmore
The Transocean Winner on the rocks at Dalmore

Island politicians have led a chorus of calls for the return of an Emergency Towing Vessel to the West Coast following the raising of safety concerns by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch after the inquiry into the grounding of the Transocean Winner Oil Rig in the Western Isles.

A published report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) into the Winner showed ‘a catalogue of things to be concerned about’ says Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan.

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil and Highlands and Islands MSP, Rhoda Grant, are both calling for direct action following the release of the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch report with a west coast ETV a necessity.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Anyone reading this thorough investigation will be left troubled. The report raises a number of worrying points, such as the lack of essential information, instruction or guidance in the towing vessel’s Towing Manual. This would have left the crew with insufficient information to carry out their duties and the fact that the report says that “such arrangements may not be unusual in ocean towage” is deeply worrying. It also raises questions about why the nearest Emergency Towing Vessel was 12 hours away in Orkney, which will again reopen the debate about why the Maritime and Coastguard agency removed the vessel from the west coast in the first place.

Angus MacNeil MP said: “It is clearly concerning that the Transocean Winner got into this dangerous situation with an under powered tug and a tow line that was showing signs of wear and tear.

“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 ‘penny pinch’ and turn a blind eye.  We have no insurance policy in our islands and this is a huge concern.”