Anglian Sovereign: Tugboat given a three-month reprieve last October.
The Scottish Government has raised concerns over the withdrawal of an emergency tugboat service in the Western Isles, five months after it was given a late reprieve.
Environment secretary Richard Lochhead said the Stornoway tug was removed from its station last weekend without formal notice or alternative cover being arranged.
In October the tugs for the Western Isles and Shetland were temporarily reinstated after last-minute negotiations between the UK Government and the maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
The MCA awarded a three-month interim contract on the day the service was due to be withdrawn. At the time Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said he was “confident” a long-term solution could be found.
Mr Lochhead has now written to UK transport minister Mike Penning demanding assurances that arrangements for Stornoway are “urgently brought forward”.
The UK Government announced plans to scrap the tugs in last year’s spending review, stating they would be replaced by a “call-off” system organised by oil and gas companies.
However, Mr Lochhead said there was a “near universal view that there is no viable commercial alternative to emergency tug cover for the Western Isles” and insisted that “provision must be reinstated as soon as possible”.
He said: “We will continue to push the UK Government to fulfil its responsibilities in this matter. The safety of human life and the marine environment must come before budgetary constraints.”
The tugs were introduced in the wake of the Braer accident in 1993 when an oil tanker ran aground off Shetland spilling 85,000 tonnes of crude oil into the sea.
The Anglian Prince tugboat was sent to Skye from Stornoway to pull the attack submarine HMS Astute free from a shingle bank after ran aground in October last year.
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Concerns raised over loss of island tugboat