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No reprieve for UK Emergency Towing Vessels

14 Sep 2011
Anglian Monarch, the ETV for the Dover Strait, has now been repainted in the livery of its owners J P Knight, in common with the rest of the ETV fleet.

Anglian Monarch, the ETV for the Dover Strait, has now been repainted in the livery of its owners J P Knight, in common with the rest of the ETV fleet.

In spite of substantial opposition from the Government Transport Select Committee, shipping interests, local authorities and the general public, there is no sign of a Government ‘U turn’ with regard to its decision to scrap the provision of four Emergency Towing vessels (ETVs) employed to help protect the UK coastline against marine pollution.

The present ETV fleet is operated by J P Knight (Lowestoft) Ltd under contract to the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA). Highly visible confirmation of the demise of this valuable service, if any is required, is the change of colour scheme on all four vessels over the past few weeks from ‘Coastguard’ livery to that of their owners. The MCA contract with J P Knight (Lowestoft) Ltd ends on the 30th of September and the change of livery is part of the ‘off hire’ procedure.

The Emergency Towing Vessel fleet of four powerful tugs, operated under the command and control of the MCA, has been developed and refined into a 24/7 service over a period of almost two decades. ETVs were first put in place on a winter only experimental basis following recommendations made by Lord Donaldson in 1994 in his report Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas. That report was issued following his enquiry into the ‘Braer’ tanker disaster off the coast of Shetland in 1993. The UK government of the day accepted all of the recommendations made in that report and during the next few years six month contracts were issued for ‘winter only’ ETV services in strategic locations, using anchorhandling tugs from Brodospas, Farstad and Klyne Tugs (Lowestoft) Ltd. During those early years the specification and operating procedures for the ETV service were refined and considerable experience gained in working alongside the other emergency services, such as the RNLI, Fire Services, RAF and Coastguard helicopters.

In 2001 the MCA awarded an eight year contract to Klyne Tugs (Lowestoft) Ltd to provide a full time service with an ETV based at four locations; the Dover Strait, Falmouth, Stornoway in the north west of Scotland, and Orkney in the east. The purpose built Anglian Monarch, Anglian Princess and Anglian Sovereign were allocated to Dover, Falmouth and Orkney respectively and the salvage tug Anglian Prince at Stornoway.

The MCA contract was extended in 2006 until September of this year. Since its inception the ETV fleets has attended many incidents around the UK coastline and often far into the North Atlantic to attend vessels in trouble. The crews have received several commendations for their work. Ironically, Lord Donaldson’s report Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas, and the UK ETV service model have been adopted by other nations in Europe and elsewhere when forming their own Emergency Towing and Marine Intervention services.

In its original announcement in November 2010, the Department for Transport stated that cancelling the ETV contract would save £32.5m over the period of the comprehensive spending review. It said: “The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) will no longer provide ETVs at taxpayers’ expense from September 2011. Emergency towing vessels are mainly deployed when vessels break down. The government believes state provision of ETVs does not represent a correct use of taxpayers’ money and that ship salvage should be a commercial matter between a ship’s operator and the salvor.”

The J P Knight Group took over Klyne Tugs (Lowestoft) Ltd in December 2007 and the renamed J P Knight (Lowestoft) Ltd became a subsidiary of J P Knight (Caledonian) Ltd. As a result of the MCA contract cancellation, a decision has been made to close the purpose built Lowestoft office and support facility first opened by Klyne Tugs in September 1998. The business of J P Knight (Lowestoft) Ltd will transfer to the offices of J P Knight (Caledonian) Ltd in Invergordon. All four tugs, including the deepsea tugs Anglian Monarch, Anglian Prince and Anglian Sovereign and the anchorhandler Anglian Earl will become an integrated part of the tug fleet operated out of the Scottish port. Four powerful ASD tugs are currently owned by the parent company, carrying out shiphandling, coastal and short sea towage and services to the offshore oil and wind farm construction industries.

Throughout the life of the MCA contract, Anglian Monarch was operated in the Dover Strait and funded jointly by the MCA and the French Prefecture Maritime. It is understood that as a direct result of the Anglian Monarch being withdrawn, the salvage tug Abeille Languedoc (ex; Neptun Gothia) will be redeployed to Dunkirk. Abeille Languedoc, owned by Les Abeille, has been on charter to the French Maritime authorities for many years operating as an ETV in the western approaches and latterly off the west coast of France at La Pallice. The French tug has operated alongside the British ETVs from time to time and is a twin screw vessel of 58.65m in length, powered by four MAK main engines developing 12,800 bhp and a bollard pull of 160 tons.

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Anglian Monarch, the ETV for the Dover Strait, has now been repainted in the livery of its owners J P Knight, in common with the rest of the ETV fleet.

Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright © Mercator Media 2014. This does not exclude the owner's assertion of copyright over the material.

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