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Coastguard changes under scrutiny

THE UK Parliament’s transport select committee is conducting a follow-up inquiry into the recent changes to the coastguard service, including the provision of emergency towing vessels and the work of the Maritime Incident Response Group.

Last summer, the committee published a highly critical report condemning coalition plans to close half of the UK’s coastguard stations, including the one in Shetland.

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Following a high profile campaign by the island community the station in Lerwick was saved, while others such as Clyde coastguard station is due to be closed by the end of this year.

The committee was also sceptical of the wisdom behind withdrawing the four emergency towing vessels from patrolling UK waters, and urged the government to find other sources of financing ETV cover.

While the tugs covering the Dover Straits and the south west approaches were withdrawn by the end of last year, the two Scottish tugs have been replaced with the 32 year old Herakles, stationed in Orkney, to cover both the northern isles and the Minches.

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Earlier this month, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency insisted that the vessel was fit to do the job.

“The Herakles is a specialist anchor handling and towing vessel which has provided ETV services to the MCA in the past.

“We are therefore very happy that it meets all the operational capability parameters laid down by the MCA for use as an emergency towing vessel, inclusive of the training and overall experience of the crew,” a spokeswoman said.

A spokesperson for the select committee said MPs intended to follow up its previous work by taking further evidence on the issues raised during their inquiry.

“The Committee would like to hear about the possible impact on service delivery arising from these changes.

“The Committee would also like to follow up its recommendations regarding Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group.”

Submissions should be made by 14 September.

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