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News / MP pledges no gap in emergency tug cover

Oil standby vessel Grampian Frontier could be contracted as early as Thursday to provide emergency tug cover for Scotland's northern waters.

THE CONTRACT for the replacement emergency towing vessel (ETV) for the northern isles is to be signed by the UK government before the end of the week, possibly as early as Thursday.

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said he was unable to confirm reports the BP oil rig standby vessel Grampian Frontier was to stand in as an emergency tug when the coastguard ETV Anglian Sovereign goes permanently off station on Saturday night.

“Nothing has been signed yet,” Mr Carmichael said on Wednesday afternoon, adding philosophically that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

However he was adamant that the coalition government would not allow a gap in the cover during the handover from one tug to another.

Meanwhile sources from within the shipping industry have warned that contrary to assurances given at Wednesday’s council meeting, the Grampian Frontier might not be powerful enough to do the job expected of it.

Concerns have also been raised about the time it could take for the Grampian Frontier to be released from her charter west of Shetland to go on an urgent coastguard co-ordinated job.

It has emerged that at about 8,500 horsepower the Grampian Frontier, stationed in the Foinaven and Schiehallion oil fields, is just half as powerful as the current coastguard vessel.

The Anglian Sovereign has a reported bollard pull (the pulling force of a tug) of around 180 tonnes, while the Grampian Frontier has a bollard pull of 100 tonnes.

SIC harbourmaster Roger Moore responded that the Grampian Frontier could be “a potentially workable solution”.

He said: “A bollard pull of just over 100 tons is sufficient to do the job. Is it as powerful as the Anglian Sovereign? No! The Grampian Frontier is not a purpose built ETV, it is an emergency response and recovery vessel but it’s got the winches and the physical size.

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“Having said that its got a bigger bollard pull than some of the European emergency towing vessels.”

Captain Moore added that it was vital for the crew of the vessel to undergo sufficient training to be able to take on the new role.

An MCA table top exercise involving the new northern isles emergency tug has been confirmed for next week.

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