Council renews call for permanent reinstatement of ETVs

Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Drew Hendry has renewed The Highland Council’s call to permanently retain and reinstate previous levels of emergency towing vehicles (ETVs) covering the Minch and Northern Isles.

This call comes in light of the current incident involving the MV Parida which was transporting a cargo of radioactive concrete waste from Scrabster to Antwerp when a fire on board caused a loss of power and left the vessel drifting 20 miles off Wick. The fire was extinguished, however due to the direction of the drifting vessel; the Beatrice oil platform was evacuated and shut down as a precaution. The MV Parida was subsequently towed to the narrows of the Cromarty Firth.

The Highland Council’s programme for 2012 – 2017 has a commitment to: ‘work with the Scottish Government to press the UK Government for the same level of protection as previously provided by two emergency towing vehicles covering the Minch and Northern Isles.’

The Highland Council has previously lobbied the UK Government hard for the permanent reinstatement of two ETVs, however the UK Government only agreed to fund one ETV which is currently based in Orkney and is funded until March, 2016. This means there is no emergency coverage for the west coast, particularly the Minch. There is a commercial arrangement with Oil and Gas to provide a vessel in the North Sea. There is no Government Funded ETV on the west coast and there are no commercial options. 

Councillor Hendry said: “This incident clearly raises the importance of our campaign to reinstate permanently 2 vessels to cover the west coast as well as the east coast. Having spoken with the Leaders of all the groups of The Highland Council, we are united in our demand that action is taken to protect all of our coastlines.

“Without the basing of an ETV on the west coast there continues to be a real risk for ships and potential catastrophic environmental damage that could be caused from an incident, especially given the steaming time to get an ETV from Orkney to the Minches. The situation is even more serious for the west coast given the intention of the Nulcear Decomissioning Authority to start shipping cargoes of spent nuclear material from Dounreay around the north coastline, down the Minches to Cumbria.

“If these proposals are implemented, it is imperative that adequate safety measures are put in place, including the dedicated basing of an ETV to respond to any incidents along the Pentland Firth and the Minches. As shown today accidents can happen and even the most resilient and capable of vessels can lose power.

“The potential for a vessel carrying nuclear material fuel to have an accident in the Minches presents a significant risk.  Under current arrangements, there would be no assistance available for several hours.  The prospect of a serious accident occurring and the consequences for the communities and the environment cannot be ignored.

“Working with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, I will be writing to the Scottish Government to ask for their support in taking our campaign forward and once again will be insisting that the UK Government commit to a permanent 2-vessel solution.”

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8 Oct 2014
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