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News / Cameron non-committal over emergency tug

MV Herakles will continue to provide emergency cover until 30 September, but Prime Minister David Cameron says because it is "currently used very sparingly" the government is looking at how best to provide the service.

ALISTAIR Carmichael has criticised Prime Minister David Cameron for failing to show “commitment” to maintaining an emergency towing vessel (ETV) after the issue reached the House of Commons.

Funding for the Orkney-based Herakles was due to be withdrawn at the end of March but with just weeks to spare it was given a reprieve until 30 September.

The Northern Isles MP brought the matter to Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday (23 March), asking Cameron to look again at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) decision to end funding in September.

The Conservative said Carmichael made a “very important point” and added that the tug has played a crucial role in providing emergency cover to the north and west of Scotland in the past.

“The cost is between two to three million pounds a year,” Cameron said. “It’s currently used very sparingly so it is right to look at the right way to deliver this service in the future.

“Alternative options will clearly take time to develop and implement which is why we’ve announced that this will be funded until 30 September 2016 and we’ll have to make a decision on provision in due course.”

Speaking after PMQs, Carmichael raised concerns over Cameron’s response, saying the vessel acted as a vital “insurance policy” for the north of Scotland.

“Every winter we see pictures of the Prime Minister in his wellington boots visiting communities hit by flooding,” Carmichael said.

“He should imagine what it would be like if, instead of wading through flood water in his wellingtons, he was wading through crude oil on a beach. He might then ask himself how he would look people in the eye if he knew that this had happened because his government removed the only protection that might have prevented it.

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“There was not much commitment from the Prime Minister in his answer today but if he pushes ahead and axes the tug then he will never be able to say that he was not warned. The tug is our insurance policy.

“You pay your insurance premiums in good times and in bad so that when you need protection it will be there for you.”

ETVs were introduced following the Donaldson inquiry into the 1993 grounding of the Braer tanker on the southern tip of Shetland.

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