• April 1, 2011


As promised the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has forwarded a summary of the deliberations of the recent forum(s) convened to consider the decision of the UK government to terminate the contract which provides Emergency Towing Vessel around the coasts of Britain.

These vessels have been on station for over fifteen years at strategic locations and the raison d’etre for the ETV system was a series of catastrophes when oil tankers foundered, causing major environmental pollution events.

The Celtic League campaigned for actions by EU governments to establish ETV facilities and also double-hulling of tankers which a number of States now provide. So far only the UK has indicated that it will end funding.

The UK government decision to end ETV provision is likely to be on the agenda of the Celtic League AGM to be held in Stirling later this year.

The MCA forum(s) summary is set out below (note EMSA refers to the European Maritime Safety Agency):

“ETV Interested Parties Meetings Executive Summary

The MCA has facilitated an ETV interested parties meeting in Edinburgh, kindly hosted by the Offices of the Scottish Executive on the 4th March 2011, and London on the 11th March hosted by the Chamber of Shipping, the purpose of the meetings to bring together those people that have raised questions or issues
relating to the Governments Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) announcement in September 2010. Meeting attendees are detailed at annex A.

The MCA provided a detailed presentation which covered the background to the ETV provision, leading onto the position that the UK will be facing in September 2011. This was followed by a review of ETV tasking’s and incident response, a summary of the risk assessment approach and what has changed since Donaldson’s
report, and ending with the mitigation measures that are in place and those being developed to establish and maintain the intelligent maritime picture.

Key issues that were identified are summarised as follows:

Suggestions that were made

• Crown Estates – Funding from the licensing of sites:

 Reduction in sea room increasing hazards for shipping, this was addressed within the marine spatial planning concept, suggesting that an element of revenue generated from this growth industry could be directed towards emergency response.

 Oil Companies / Offshore Renewable Operators – Requirements for standby vessels could be enhanced under the licensing regime which in turn could be developed to provide options for emergency towing.

• Light Dues – This fund provides for safety of navigation. It was suggested that a modest increase would pay for ETVs. Post meeting note, option investigated the statutory position on light dues does not allow for use of the funds in this way and therefore cannot be considered further.

• EMSA This concept was discussed, it was identified that no emergency response vessels are available through EMSA. Informed discussion with EMSA indicate that this is unlikely to develop. It would require direct government funding.

• UK inter-government cooperation – Multi capability vessel for use by various departments, the combining of taskings would ease the funding burden on individual departments (government owned operated?) Specific design changes would need to be implemented, a challenging long term concept, which could

 Counter pollution
 Border / immigration / customs
 Salvage
 Fisheries
 Escort

• Tax on the shipping industry / counter pollution levy on arrival in UK Port.

• Local / Harbour tugs – considered not fit for emergency response in current configuration. The Australian model was discussed where harbour tugs are over specified in terms of power, construction design, manning and training. This additional capacity is funded through a top up mechanism.
• CAST – The Coastguard Agreement on Salvage Tugs was discussed in some detail reviewing its potential merits and weaknesses. A CAST working group will be convened to review the process.

• Insurance- The potential for P&I Clubs to fund ETVs was discussed, the logic being that it effectively provides a level of mitigation against the potential
effects of a large scale spill.

• Base Porting – One proposal was tabled from a tug operator that ports should
offer a level of free base porting to AHT owners which would encourage tug
numbers in those areas, increasing the availability of potential emergency tow

• Restrictions on navigation, limiting or banning vessels from areas such as the Minches.

In order to further develop the actions identified it was proposed at the London
meeting that a ETV working group (ETVWG) is established, chairmanship and
membership needs to be agreed to take forward these actions and consider options
for future mitigation measures, the MCA will engage and support this activity.


The meetings clearly articulated the situation regarding the UK position post September 2011, the overarching view that emergency towing services in some form is important to ensure the cleanliness of the UK coastline. One point raised identified that the existing contract provided a one size fits all solution, it
is evident that this is not the only approach with geographic areas having very specific and unique characteristics, the needs of the Minches are very different to those of Dover or the SW approaches.
It was agreed in closing that the output of both the Edinburgh and London meetings will need to be drawn together in a 3rd workshop. This final meeting will review findings from both and not only consider options that can be taken forward but also address a chairmanship and membership of the proposed ETV and
CAST working groups, ensuring the process continues to be developed in a positive and proactive way.”

Related links on Celtic News here:


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights
human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on
socio-economic issues.

TEL (UK)01624 877918 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609

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