An independent review of the risks to shipping within the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been published by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
The report was initiated from a recommendation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch to assess the risk to and from shipping in the Dover Strait, following their report into a shipping incident in November 2016.
While that incident was localised, the scope of the recommendation was expanded to include the entire EEZ in order to provide the MCA with a broad comprehension of risk within its waters. Integral to the report’s development was a series of consultation events with key stakeholders across the UK which took place last summer.
The report is being used as part of an ongoing assessment for the future provision of Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs), whose role is to intercept ships which have become disabled before they ground or collide with other ship traffic. The ETV would secure a tow and take the casualty to a place of safety. While an ETV cannot always prevent an incident from occurring, risk assessments show that its presence mitigates some of the risk.
The UK’s current emergency towage provision, in addition to commercial tugs that are potentially available but subject to the spot market, is the IEVOLI BLACK. This ocean-going tug has been operating off northern and north western Scotland and the Scottish Isles since 2016. It is contracted by the MCA until the end of 2021.
Recommendations from the report have been based on factors such as: an assessment of the risk of incidents occurring; impact on the marine environment; regional marine economic dependency; the economic cost from an oil spill, and cost benefit analysis of emergency towage options. The study captured the entirety of the UK EEZ but also focussed on seven key shipping and/or environmentally sensitive geographical areas.
The MCA is now engaging with ministers to assess the implications of the report’s recommendations.
Russel Freeman from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: ‘”There are no quick answers with this. The independent report makes it clear that there isn’t a definitive cost benefit to employing ETVs but because prevention is better than dealing with the result of an incident, there is an argument that says we do need them.
“It is still the fact that the Government believes the responsibility for the cost of shipping should be borne by the industry and not the taxpayer. However, we also recognise the waters around north and north-west Scotland are a special case because of their significant environmental sensitivity and their contribution to both the Scottish and UK economy.
“We are looking at the report and its recommendations, particularly in the light of the comments around provision in the South West Approaches, but taking account of the relative priority in the context of the current spending environment.”
For the full report go to www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-eez-shipping-risks-and-emergency-towage-provision-study