The cost of reinstating an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) on the west coast of Scotland would be a ‘drop in the ocean’ out of the UK Government’s budget but would provide a vital insurance policy to protect lives and the environment, said Isles MP Angus MacNeil this week.
Former Transport Minister Robert Goodwill MP told Parliament on 22 February 2016 that the Government funded ETV in Orkney cost between £2million and £3 million a year.
Mr MacNeil said adding another ETV on the west coast of Scotland would be money well spent on safeguarding lives at sea and protecting the environment.
He said: “As the international media spotlight remains on the developing situation on the Isle of Lewis where a 17,000 tonne oil rig, the Transocean Winner grounded at Dalmore on Monday. The UK Government have been forewarned on many occasions about the risks involved in not having an ETV based on the west coast of Scotland. It has never been clearer that an ETV on the west coast is absolutely essential.
“£3 million is a drop in the ocean in the overall budget of the UK Government and an ETV would provide an insurance policy to protect lives and the environment on Scotland’s cost.
“We know that the UK Government spends money in many areas and the sum we are needing for an ETV is minor, in comparison to the costs involved in cleaning-up if a major pollution incident was to take place.
Mr MacNeil said he and his SNP colleagues at Westminster had warned UK Transport Minister in February that the ‘penny-wise, pound-foolish Government’ were playing ‘fast and loose with the Scottish coastline’.
During that debate, Shipping Minister Robert Goodwill said the ETV in Orkney cost the tax payer between £2 million and £3million annually and that it had only been used four times and that no examples of marine pollution due to lack of availability of an ETV.
Mr MacNeil said in the debate: “I find the argument akin to saying, “My house was built in 1906 and it has not been on fire since, and therefore I do not need fire insurance for my house. The reality is that we should have an insurance policy. The Minister is telling me that, no matter the age of my house, I do not need insurance for my house—or, in this case, coastal insurance. In that, the UK Government have been found short and very wanting.”
Mr Goodwill conceded that there was a risk involved when making decisions on ETV cover and that the UK Government would have to look at the steaming times it takes get to certain locations.
Mr MacNeil has this week written to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport to put forward the case for an ETV based in the Hebrides.
He has also asked that an investigation takes place into why the rig was being towed in this area in such inclement weather which had been forecast.
He added that the question must also be asked as to why this oil rig was carrying 280 tonnes of diesel when it was bound for the scrapyard.
Link to ETV debate held on 22nd February: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-02-22/debates/16022238000002/EmergencyTugVessels(WestCoastOfScotland)