Shetland Islands, August 8th 2019
In an open letter to Brian Johnson, Chief Executive of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, KIMO International (Association of Municipalities for Sustainable Seas) responds to the recent Shipping Risk and Emergency Towage Provision Study commissioned by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and conducted by Fraser-Nash Consultancy.
KIMO believes the primary response function in any incident at sea must be to prioritise the safety of life and not property. KIMO highlights issues with the scope of the study that it believes will seriously undermine the study’s effectiveness. KIMO believes that the lack of opportunity to input further to the study is not in line with Government guidance for public engagement.
The aim of the study is to review the risks presented to and from shipping within the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and to assess the availability and adequacy of emergency towage arrangements.
The assessments carried out within the study focus only on the risk to shipping and the impacts on the environment but do not consider intercept times (the length of time it takes for an ETV1 to arrive at the scene of an incident). Since this is critical to the safeguarding of life at sea, KIMO believes that mechanisms and the mind set at Ministerial level for assessing the needs for maritime safety and emergencies must change and that ETV provision should be considered a ‘blue light’ service in line with other first response services (such as police, fire and ambulance) which have response times set by Government.
KIMO was surprised that the element of search and rescue capability (SAR) was not within the scope of the study. The provision of a comprehensive ETV network around the whole of the UK should be based on the time it takes an ETV to arrive at the scene to prevent a shipping loss or accident. However, the basis of the study was to review the changing nature of shipping in the EEZ and the lack of attention to the fastest growing shipping sector, the cruise industry, is worrying. Cruise liners carrying up to 5000 passengers and crew are now a regular feature around the UK and Irish coasts and it is clear that in view of incidents such as the Viking Sky2 in March of this year in Norway our traditional SAR capabilities would not work.
The Donaldson Inquiry into the Braer3 disaster in January 1993 resulted in a wide ranging and damning report. Lord Donaldson was “surprised and alarmed” at the number of potentially serious incidents uncovered by his Inquiry and, regarding major pollution, felt it was “a matter of chance”. The report published 103 recommendations including that a UK Government subsidised salvage tug service should be made available at key points around the United Kingdom.
Following the MCA/Fraser-Nash workshop on 27th June in Edinburgh, the purpose of which was to update stakeholders on the ongoing analysis and risk assessment, KIMO submitted a formal response to the workshop assessments but, to date, has not received a response that adequately addresses any of the key issues raised. Since it is clear that there will be no further opportunity to input further into this process and no formal consultation, we invite you to publish the attached letter in your letters column.
1 Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs) are ocean-going tugs with expert salvage crews and a bollard pull of over 150 tonnes. They also have firefighting and counter pollution equipment on board allowing them to undertake multiple roles including search and rescue, onsite command, control centres/communication platforms, customs support and hydrographic survey support.
2 On 23 March 2019 the MV Viking Sky, suffered an engine failure off the coast of Norway. Rescue services airlifted 479 people, hoisting them one-by-one onto helicopters, before the weather subsided on the following day and a tow could begin. She was carrying 915 passengers and 458 crew, making her a relatively small cruise ship.
3 The Braer was an oil tanker that ran aground during a storm off Shetland in January 1993 spilling around 85,000 tonnes of crude oil.
Notes to editors:
KIMO International Secretariat
Phone: +44 1595 744124
KIMO (Municipalities for Sustainable Seas) is an association of coastal local authorities whose goal is to eliminate pollution from the Northern Seas. The organisation’s members include 160 local authorities representing over 6 million inhabitants in Belgium, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.