Dover Straits tug Anglian Monarch is ‘not a good use of public money’

by Hans | January 17th, 2011

A Government agency has defended the decision to scrap an emergency tug in the English Channel, claiming it was not the best use of public money.

The controversial removal of the Anglian Monarch from the Dover Straits – one the busiest shipping lanes in the world – along with three other UK tugs in September will save £10 million a year. A Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) spokesman said the public should not be made to foot the bill when ships get into trouble on the seas.

Dover’s tug is sent out to tow stricken vessels to safety to avoid an environmental disaster – many of the hundreds of ships passing through the English Channel each day carry oil and chemical waste. But the MCA spokesman said it was the responsibility of ship owners to remove their vessels from the Channel, not the Government.

“If every time an articulated lorry was to break down at the side of the road the public had to pay to get it towed, people would not be very happy,” he said. “We are confident capacity in the commercial salvage industry will be enough to cover the removal of the tugs.”

But opposition is mounting, with conservationists claiming it leaves no protection from oil spills where ships carrying pollutants could be left out at sea. French authorities – who pay half the Anglian Monarch’s costs – are also against the move, with Pas de Calais council president Dominique Dupilet saying the savings would mean nothing if there was a maritime catastrophe.

Campaigner Jean Hendry, from Thanet, said: “Its cost is shared 50-50 with France, where its presence is greatly valued. It is something we cannot afford to live without.” Maritime union Nautilus warned that axing the four emergency towing vessels was gambling with lives and the environment. General secretary Mark Dickinson said: “The thinking behind this is utterly incomprehensible and we will do all that we can to persuade the Government to reconsider.

“The number of recent incidents and near misses in the Channel alone serves to demonstrate the value of these vessels and it is clear that Government is running significant risk in removing the protection they provide. “The proposed savings represent a drop in the ocean in terms of the overall Department for Transport budget, but the loss of these services could make the difference between life and death, or an environmental disaster.”

Anglian Monarch was called out on Christmas Eve to help a stricken cargo ship where three crewmen were suffering smoke inhalation after a fire on board.

Source: Kent News

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