Highlands & Islands

Petition calling for return of Western Isles ETV handed in

Herakles Image copyright Shetland Coastguard
Image caption Scotland has one emergency tug which operates from the Northern Isles

A petition calling for the reinstatement of an emergency towing vessel (ETV) for the Western Isles has been handed to the UK government.

Until 2012, Scotland had two ETVs available for towing ships that had grounded or broken down on Scotland's north and west coasts.

One ship continues to operate out of the Northern Isles.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which manages ETVs, has ruled out reintroducing a second tugboat.

Councillors on the Western Isles were among the organisers of the 1,500-signature petition.

The islands' local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, has support from Orkney and Shetland island councils and local MPs and MSPs in its call for the reinstatement of a second ETV.

They have said the grounding of the drilling rig Transocean Winner at Dalmore on Lewis in early August has highlighted the need for two tugs.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) manages ETVs with funding support from the UK government.

The MCA said it had examined the case for two tugs in a consultation and an independent report earlier this year.

A spokesperson said: "The operational experience of the past five years has demonstrated that a single ETV has been sufficient to meet the needs for emergency towage.

"Given this evidence, it has been decided that a second ETV, delivered at tax-payer expense, is not warranted.

"The MCA will monitor the prevailing conditions and when appropriate will consider moving the ETV to a position within its overall operating area where the potential for increased risk has been identified."

The spokesperson added that a new contract for the Northern Isles-based ETV would likely include "a patrolling function".

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