Council Leader to fight for the protection of Highland coastal waters – potential withdrawal of last remaining Emergency Towing Vessel

The Leader of the Highland Council will be joining her counterparts from Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles alongside representatives of Kommunenes Internasjonale Miljøorganisasjon (KIMO) tomorrow to press for the continuation of funding for the last remaining Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) in UK waters and for the reinstatement of a second vessel. 

The Marine and Coastguard Agency has called the meeting to discuss the ‘Future Response Strategy’ following the end of the current ETV contract next month.  The Highland Council has consistently campaigned for continued UK Government funding to maintain appropriate levels of protection around its extensive coastline because of the lack of a commercial alternative.  

The significant challenges involved in navigating around the West, the Northern Isles and Pentland Firth combined with unusual tidal movements and severe weather  make the whole area particularly vulnerable to marine accidents.  As well as the increased risk of loss of life, the removal of all ETV capability would leave the whole area vulnerable to potentially catastrophic environmental and economic damage.

The Leader of the Highland Council, Margaret Davidson, has cautiously welcomed the MCA’s willingness to engage with stakeholders by calling the meeting tomorrow, but has concerns about the outcome. She said: “The only successful outcome is for the MCA to extend the current contract and agree to reinstate a second ETV in the Minches.  However, I suspect that this is not the intention of the meeting and instead we will be informed that the protection of our waters will need to be sacrificed in order to make budget savings. 

“The country is just recovering from the 9th major storm of the seasonSo far, we have been very lucky and there has been no marine disaster, but it is unthinkable that we should have to rely on luck in the future when there is so much in jeopardy.  I will never accept that this is a risk worth taking and I will be making this point in the strongest possible terms at the Stakeholder meeting tomorrow. 

“I have also written to the Secretary of State for Scotland and the First Minister seeking their support for the retention of this crucial service.”

9 Feb 2016
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