Highlands & Islands

Tugs resume coastguard work off west coast and Shetland

Anglian Sovereign. Pic: Simon Riley/MCA
Image caption The Anglian Sovereign is covering the Northern Isles

Two tugs have resumed Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) duties under a newly award three-month contract.

The Anglian Monarch is covering the west Highland coast and the Western Isles while the Anglian Sovereign is operating from Shetland.

The UK government withdrew the tugs to save costs and said the industry should take responsibility for salvage.

However, it committed to a one-off payment of up to £3m to cover the cost of tugs for Scotland for three months.

The vessels and crews resumed duties as Scottish Secretary Michael Moore chaired the first meeting of the Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) Working Group in Edinburgh.

'Constructive' meeting

The meeting was attended by representatives from the Scotland Office, the MCA, Department for Transport, Marine Scotland, KIMO, the Chamber of Shipping and Highland, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles councils.

The Scotland Office Minister David Mundell also attended.

Mr Moore said: "This was a practical and constructive first meeting. We are determined to do everything we can to find a viable, long term alternative.

"Our discussions today were focused on what Scotland needs from its ETVs and what the options may be in finding a long-term replacement.

"We worked well across a wide range of interests and I am confident we can put the huge level of expertise and experience represented on the group to good work."

Stephen Hagan, convener of Orkney Council, said: "We are pleased that the government is looking for a long-term solution and we are happy to play our part to work towards that.

"We are hopeful that we can reach an outcome that is mutually acceptable."

The Scottish ETV Group will meet again in the next few weeks.

Over the next three months the Scotland Office will seek to find a longer term arrangement for ETV cover.

The tugs are owned by Invergordon-based JP Knight, which provided the coastguard with tugs until the contract ended last month.

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