THE OIL standby vessel Grampian Frontier currently on service west of Shetland is to replace the coastguard tug serving the northern isles, it has been revealed.
Shetland Islands Council heard on Wednesday that the government was in talks with the oil industry to replace the emergency towing vessel Anglian Sovereign with the vessel currently on charter with BP’s Foinaven and Schiehallion fields.
However councillors are furious with the coalition government for refusing to pay for an anti-pollution vessel from the public purse and for failing to replace the tug serving Scotland’s west coast.
There are also concerns that there will be a gap in cover between the Anglian Sovereign going out of service this weekend and the Grampian Frontier becoming available in an emergency.
Discussions with the oil industry over insurance, liability and training for the crew were still ongoing, according to SIC harbourmaster Roger Moore.
Councillors were unanimous in their condemnation of the coalition government.
At his last meeting as council convener, Sandy Cluness said the island community felt “badly let down”, also pointing out that the western isles, represented by the SNP in Westminster, would not receive a replacement tug.
Shetland West member Gary Robinson said he was concerned that years of experience gained on board the dedicated MCA vessels would be lost in the handover and pointed out that it was the government’s responsibility to protect lives.
Lerwick North councillor Caroline Miller said she was appalled that a government earning billions from the oil industry around Shetland was unwilling to pay a small amount for dedicated protection.
SIC chief executive Alistair Buchan will now write a strongly worded letter to the government demanding the existing services to continue to operate “until a suitable long term alternative is in place”.
The 1997 built Grampian Frontier is powered by two 4,050 horsepower engines and is said to have sufficient bollard pull to come to the rescue of any stricken vessel in the area. Stationed to the west of Shetland she will be able to respond to incidents within a 12 hour time frame.
The vessel, owned by Aberdeen based North Star Shipping, is on long term charter to BP who operate the Foinaven and Schiehallion fields. Once called out on an emergency she would come off charter and be directed by the coastguards.
The full specification for the boat can be found here.