NORTHERN isles MP Alistair Carmichael has questioned why it took more than two hours for the emergency towing vessel Herakles to be dispatched following the discovery of the overturned hull of the Cemfjord on Saturday afternoon.
He said he was well aware that an ETV was not a lifeboat but was seeking assurance from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) after local people spoke to him about their concern.
Eight crew members are missing, presumed dead, after the search in the Pentland Firth was called off on Sunday.
Carmichael said: “The loss of the cargo ship Cemfjord was a sad way to start the New Year and, like everyone I speak to, my thoughts are firstly with the family and friends of the missing crew.
“We are, as ever, grateful to the crews of the lifeboats, helicopters, the emergency tug, and local coastguards for everything they did in the hours and days following its discovery.”
But he added: “A number of local people have raised their concerns with me that the ETV left its mooring two and a half hours after the alarm was first raised by the Hrossey.
“I am wanting to know, first of all, if this is true and, if it is, what the reason for the delay was.
“Obviously the tug is not a lifeboat and is used differently but if it was necessary to use it in this operation then I would like to know why there was this delay.
“It is important for the local community to have confidence in the tug and the way that it is being used. These questions, therefore, cannot be left unanswered.”
In a response to the MP on Tuesday, the chief executive of the MCA, Sir Alan Massey said the deployment of the Herakles was not part of the search and rescue response.
“The Herkales was not sent to the scene as a search asset, it was sent as an emergency towing vessel to mark the position of the Cemfjord and offer expert advice on the salvage effort.
“This deployment was not part of the search and rescue response,” he said in a letter to Carmichael.
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