THE FUTURE of the emergency towing vessel (ETV), stationed in theNorthern Isles, will be discussed at a meeting in Edinburgh next week.
The invitation from Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) comes less than two months before the end of the current contract.
Politicians in the isles have voiced their concern for many years over the long-term uncertainty of emergency cover to the north and west of Scotland.
Emergency towing vessels were introduced following recommendations from the Donaldson inquiry into the 1993 grounding of the Braer tanker.
The contract for four UK oceangoing tugs were not renewed in the spending review of 2011/12 – with the exception of the Herakles, which was given a reprieve to provide cover to the north and west of Scotland.
That reprieve comes to an end on 31 March and the UK government has again concluded that funding for an ETV is not a spending priority.
UK chairman of KIMO, the environmental pressure group of local authorities, Raymond Christie said that the meeting in itself was a positive step.
“ETVs are a very important part of our emergency response and are there to prevent incidents at sea turning in events with tragic consequences,” he said.
“Their continued provision is essential if we are protect our seafarers, seas and coastline from the worst effects of these incidents.
“The MCA has previously indicated its intention to cease funding for the ETV from March this year and we hope that this invitation signals a genuine willingness on their part to review this earlier decision and a desire to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome which ensures our waters and coastlines are properly protected.”