The UK Government is to commit funding for the emergency towing vessel, currently based off the coast of Scotland, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill announced today.
The UK Government already funds this vessel, which provides assistance to ships around the north and north-west of Scotland. Its contract was originally reinstated in 2011. Before today’s intervention the arrangement was due to end on 30 September 2016.
Earlier this year, Robert Goodwill asked the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to look at alternative options for towing provision beyond September. It has been decided there is a strong case for the UK Government to step in to allow this vital service to continue.
UK Government Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said:
The emergency towing vessel in Scotland saves lives and protects the Scottish coast from damaging pollution. I am delighted to confirm the UK Government has secured its future by providing funding for the next five years.
This service is absolutely critical to ensuring emergency services can respond swiftly to incidents off the coast of Scotland.
We have taken this decision following extensive consultation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. This is an important measure to ensure maritime safety and pollution prevention measures in the waters around Scotland.
The MCA review concluded the commercial towage market cannot currently reliably meet the need for a dedicated service to cover the seas around Scotland.
The vessel will help assist ships in difficulty and safeguard local communities and businesses against potential pollution incidents.
Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said:
I am very pleased that the UK Government can guarantee the future funding of the emergency towing vessel stationed in the Northern Isles. The islands councils have impressed upon us how important it is to maritime safety in the area. The UK Government has listened to what they have said, and is now able to secure the funding to maintain this vital safety vessel in the north of Scotland.
The MCA consulted extensively with local stakeholders, industry and the Scottish Government. It will now commence tendering for a new contract for a period of up to five years. Under the new contract, the MCA will seek to recover costs of the emergency towing vessel from the shipping industry wherever possible and, in the longer term, explore opportunities for the vessel to take on low-risk commercial work. Together these measures will reduce the overall cost to the taxpayer. Any costs recovered will go towards additional patrolling and crew training, which will further enhance maritime safety around Scotland.