Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat
A call upon the UK Government to reinstate the west coast tug has been issued by Comhairle Leader Cllr Roddie Mackay and Islands MSP Alasdair Allan as yesterday (Thursday, December 14th) saw both Stornoway RNLI lifeboat and Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat launch to the aid of a stricken cargo vessel in trouble off Harris.
“Lifeboats from Leverburgh and Stornoway have had to assist the freight ship until the ETV from Orkney arrives more than 12 hours later,” said Cllr Mackay. “It is unacceptable.”
Both volunteer RNLI crews at Leverburgh and Stornoway launched at 6pm last night in response to a ‘Pan-Pan’ call – one level down from a full distress Mayday – from the 54 metre cargo ship ‘Fame’ in difficulties after losing propulsion power west of Scarp, on the west side of Harris.
The ship had anchored to slow its rate of drift and was attended by both RNLI lifeboats as all three vessels awaited the arrival of the ETV (Emergency Towing Vehicle) which was on route from base in Orkney.
The volunteer crew of Leverburgh RNLI returned to berth this morning at around 7.30am; at present, the volunteer crew of Stornoway RNLI remain on the scene.
Highlighting the need for an ETV based on the west coast of Scotland, Cllr Roddie Mackay said: “Last night we had an incident off the west coast which could have seriously impacted marine wildlife and the coastal environment.
“These incidents are all too frequent and we remain very concerned, as do colleagues in neighbouring councils, about the current situation which increases the risks for mariners and the environment.
“We will once again be making the case to the UK Government for a second ETV based on the west coast to address this serious issue.”
Cllr Mackay added: “We are also raising the matter of deployment of the ETV with the MCA as the lifeboats from Leverburgh and Stornoway have had to assist the freight ship until the ETV from Orkney arrives more than 12 hours later. It is unacceptable.”
Echoing the Comhairle Leader, Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: “After the Transocean Winner oil rig washed up on the beach of Dalmore last year we were told there was still not a case for an additional ETV based on the west coast, and that the Orkney-based ETV would be undertaking regular patrols to the Western Isles instead.
“Last night’s incident shows this is not good enough to protect our coast.”
He continued: “We should all be incredibly grateful to the dedication and skill of the Leverburgh and Stornoway lifeboat crews, who arrived promptly on the scene.
“However, we are very lucky that last night’s incident did not end with the grounding of a vessel on our shores and this needs to be taken seriously.
“If we look to Europe for comparison, Germany with a coastline of 2,389km has eight Emergency Towing Vehicles (ETVs) while the UK Government has left Scotland with just one, despite our coastline of 18,672km.
“I once again call upon the UK Government to live up to its maritime safety obligations and reinstate a dedicated ETV for the west coast of Scotland.”
Stornoway RNLI lifeboat