UK Govt. asked BP to provide emergency tug for Western Isles

The Transocean Winner, grounded on the Western Isles Photograph; Coastguard Agency
The Transocean Winner, grounded on the Western Isles Photograph; Coastguard Agency

The UK Government was warned by BP that the Western Isles required a dedicated emergency towing vessel – five years before it took 18 hours to scramble a tug after the Transocean Winner rig ran aground last month.

The warning, revealed in a letter published following a Freedom of Information request, came after the UK Government asked BP to provide emergency cover for the Minch shipping channel – despite BP not using the route.

Trevor Garlick, the now-retired BP North Sea President, warned the British Govt. minister for Scotland, David Mundell, that covering the Minch from their base of operations would mean 16-20 hours travel in the event of an emergency, and the Western Isles “therefore could not be serviced with anything other than a dedicated vessel”.

The UK Government has consistently ignored safety warnings that separate emergency tugs are required for the Northern and Western Isles.

SNP MSP Alasdair Allan commented: “The UK Government accepts that the waters around northern Scotland are of such economic and environmental importance that they require a publicly-funded emergency towing vessel – but the Tories went cap-in-hand to BP to ask them to provide the cover they refuse to provide themselves.

“BP’s response was to privately warn David Mundell, some five years ago, that a vessel based in the Northern Isles simply couldn’t service the Western Isles safely – and to point out that BP didn’t even use the shipping route they’d been asked to serve.

“When the 17,000 tonne oil rig ran aground on Lewis this summer it took 18 hours for the nearest tug to be scrambled. This is exactly what BP told David Mundell would be unacceptable. Scotland’s islands deserve better protection from maritime accidents than an emergency response that takes almost a full day to arrive.”

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