NEWS that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has awarded a five-year contract for a new emergency towing vessel (ETV) has been broadly welcomed.
The Dutch company Ardent Maritime Netherlands BV will station its 70-metre tug Ievoli Black in the area as of 31 December.
The Ievoli Black, with a bollard pull of 139 tonnes will replace the Herakles, the MCA’s Scottish salvage tug for the last five years.
Following a long-running campaign to retain ETV cover to the north and west of Scotland, the government eventually gave a guarantee this summer to fund a salvage tug for another five years.
Shetland community safety and resilience board chairman Alastair Cooper said he was delighted with the announcement as it provided “continuity in the area”.
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael was a little more critical of the government, suggesting it should prioritise safety over cost.
“It is welcome news that we have a five year guarantee for the emergency towing tug. This cover is crucially important for the isles,” he said.
“I smile wryly when I see the MCA talking about the priority they attach to maritime safety when I know that the MCA has been the body that constantly offers the ETV up as a saving.
“What is really needed is proper external analysis of tug provision that looks first at the safety and then at the cost – and not the other way around.
“I also would like to see the different arms of government, including the Scottish government, recognise that they have a role to play here beyond complaining when the tug is under threat. All that said this is good news on which to end the year.”
The MCA said that the contract was awarded after an open market competition involving 22 bids.
Shipping minister John Hayes said maritime safety was of the greatest importance to the UK government.
“This Scottish ETV will stand ready to support commercial vessels which get into trouble at sea and in doing so, will safeguard the Scottish coastline.”
The MCA’s director of maritime operations, Richard Parkes, added: “Maritime safety is always our priority. This is why we have secured a new emergency towing vessel to protect the shores of north and north-west Scotland, where the ready availability of commercial towage is not guaranteed.”
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