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Emergency Towing Vessels

Volume 559: debated on Thursday 28 February 2013

Following discussions with interested parties in Scotland, the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, in June 2012 I confirmed that the Government would establish a new contract for an emergency towing vessel to be held in stand-by in waters around Scotland for the duration of the current spending review period.

In parallel, discussions have continued with interested parties in the private sector on possible arrangements to complement this service. I am pleased to announce that agreement has been reached with BP and North Star Shipping to release a vessel to respond to an incident in waters around Scotland. An operational and commercial model has been brokered allowing HM Coastguard to call on the BP-chartered vessel, the Grampian Frontier, to provide support in the event of a pollution incident. North Star Shipping is working with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to ensure that the crew and equipment are able to respond.

Now that an operational and commercial model has been identified, it is hoped that the scheme will be broadened out to include other suitable vessels identified by offshore industry around Scotland. Oil and Gas UK, who helped to broker the agreement, will work with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to evaluate operation of the agreement and explore the possibility of other industry vessels that may be suitable to register to assist. As a signal of their commitment, BP also announced investment of up to $250,000 towards new towing equipment to upgrade its fleet of Caledonian regional support vessels, enhancing their ability to respond.

This is the first agreement of its kind in the UK and the private sector partners involved are setting a positive example to wider industry. I am grateful for efforts on the part of Oil and Gas UK, BP and North Star Shipping in facilitating this agreement and to Oil and Gas UK for its assistance with future wider industry participation.