BP agrees to emergency tug deal

A deal has been brokered between the UK government and BP to use one of the oil company's vessels to provide emergency tug cover in the Northern Isles.

The arrangement will see the BP chartered anchor handling vessel "Grampian Frontier" being drafted in to help in the event of a marine pollution incident.

It is thought it will cost BP £160,000 to adapt the vessels.

Emergency tug cover for the area was removed last year.

For 10 years, two tugs were hired by the coastguard to provide aid to stricken vessels around Scotland.

The UK government moved to end the contracts in late 2011 before agreeing to short extensions until March last year.

In June, it was announced funding for a tug to work "around Scotland's coast as required" would be provided until 2015.

Northern Isles Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael said the deal with BP showed that the oil industry was willing to do its bit.

He said: "The fact that we were able to retain any emergency tug, which is currently stationed in Orkney, was significant progress.

"The fact, though, is that the oil industry, through BP, are now stepping up to the plate, recognising that they have got a contribution they can make here, and are actually putting their money where their mouth is."

Lang Banks from environmental campaign group WWF said: "We welcome the government's acknowledgement that one emergency towing vessel was simply never enough to cover Scotland's vast sea area and its high level of vessel traffic.

"While our preference has always been for at least two, permanent, government-backed vessels this announcement will go some way to reducing the risk of future environmental disasters like the Braer.

"As this is an untested arrangement we will be watching extremely closely to see how it performs."

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