The Scotland Office has announced the provision of an Emergency Towing Vessel off the west coast of Scotland for the next three years.
The Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore today (Tuesday) confirmed the UK Government will continue to fund an Emergency Towing Vessel for the rest of the Spending Review up to 2015.
The news brings a search for a solution to the issue to a successful conclusion and means there will be a vessel on hand to provide cover and assistance to shipping around the coast of Scotland as required.
Month-by-month funding arrangements had been in place to allow the Emergency Towing Vessel Scotland Group look at potential solutions, including commercial call-out options, and that cover will continue until the long-term arrangement is put in place. The procurement process will be launched today.
A change to the previous arrangements will be the vessel being tasked by HM Coastguard to undertake specific escort duties should they consider it necessary, rather than the passive escort of shipping. The government considers this to be the best model available to ensure the best coverage of the waters around Scotland while combining operational considerations and value for money for the UK taxpayer.
Options for the optimal stationing of the vessel will be sought from the market, and decisions on operational positioning and tasking will rest with HM Coastguard.
Michael Moore said: “As a government, we have listened closely to all the views which have been put forward in this process. We have worked hard within the UK Government with the Department for Transport and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency to find the best solution to maintain emergency towing vessel cover within the financial constraints we face.
“Today’s announcement shows we have found a practical and sensible way forward with a replacement which balances risk and efficiency. I am grateful the local authorities, Harbour Masters and others who have taken part in the process leading up to today’s announcement.
“The oil industry has also been active in helping explore the potential of a commercial call-out arrangement using their vessels and discussions are still underway.”
Welcoming the news, the Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Cllr. Angus Campbell, said: “This is excellent news for the Western Isles, for maritime users on the west coast and for the protection of the environment.
“The Comhairle has campaigned long and hard for a publicly funded Emergency Tug and it is in the interests of both seagoing safety and the environment that our negotiations with Government have achieved such a constructive outcome.
“I am grateful that the case we have made, together with our partner local authorities, to the UK Government has been recognised and that an effective agreement has been reached. The Comhairle looks forward to continuing to work constructively with Government to secure the best possible contract for an emergency tug service.”