THE COASTGUARD tug Anglian Sovereign, which has provided cover for waters around the northern isles for the past 10 years, will finally go out of service on Wednesday night.
The emergency towing vessel saw what will probably be its final operation, ironically, in the western isles where it was called out on Monday night from Kirkwall to stand by after a 4,500 tonne Dutch cargo boat ran aground on a rocky outcrop off North Uist.
On Tuesday afternoon the Anglian Sovereign was heading back to Orkney after the 112 metre MV Flinterspirit floated free at high tide off the isle of Flodaigh Mòr at 5am, having grounded at 10.45pm the previous evening.
The incident occurred less than 48 hours after the Maritime & Coastguard Agency contract chartering the western isles tug Anglian Monarch came to an end.
The Anglian Sovereign contract runs out at midnight on Wednesday after which she will join her sister ship at the Invergordon headquarters of its owners JP Knight, where both vessels will await a private charter.
The Scotland Office said on Tuesday it was still intent on finding a solution to providing emergency cover for the Scottish coastline, which was introduced in 2001 following the Lord Donaldson report into the grounding of the Braer oil tanker off Shetland in 1993.
The coalition government refused to renew the MCA tug contract as part of its major public spending review to shrink government expenditure. The same review attempted to close half the country’s coastguard stations, including Lerwick and Stornoway, which were saved after a huge public campaign.
The main contract for four tugs based around the UK coastline ended in September 2011, but the Scottish tugs were twice given a stay of execution in an effort to find a long term solution, which has so far proved elusive.
The Scotland Office continues to host talks with the Scottish government, local authorities and the oil and gas industry to find a solution for providing cover around the northern isles.
Similar talks for the western isles involve the renewable energy industry rather than oil and gas.
A Scotland Office spokesman said: “The situation is black and white, the solution must come from outside government.”
Unfortunately the most high profile event involving the Anglian Sovereign came in September 2005 when it grounded on rocks off Scalloway spilling 80 tonnes of oil into the sea. The tug’s skipper Peter Leask was jailed for eight months for being drunk in charge of a vessel at the time.
Meanwhile the MV Flintersprint is being checked for damage at Stornoway where she was escorted by the Barra and Stornoway lifeboats. She had been on her way from Sweden to Belfast with 10 crew on board.
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