Croatian tugs to guard UK waters against pollution Flag-of-convenience ships to guard British waters

Two tugs chartered by the Government to protect the coast from potential pollution by sub-standard shipping are themselves registered under a flag of convenience and operated by cut-price Croatian crews.

The decision by the Coastguard Agency to award the contract to the Croatian-owned Brodospas Sun and Brodospas Moon appears to fly in the face of recommendations of Lord Donaldson's report into the Braer disaster, which cautioned against "polyglot crews''speaking different languages communicating with each other in time of emergency.

The Liberian-registered Braer ran aground two years ago next week, spilling 85,000 tonnes of oil on to the coast of the Shetlands. Lord Donaldson's 550-page report recommended the placing of emergency standby tugs to prevent pollution to help ships that suffered engine or steering failure. But it also warned of the dangers of ships run by "fly-by-night operators whose sole concern is for the fast buck at whatever price in terms of the safety and welfare of officers and crew".

Shipping unions, which have seen huge job losses in the past decade, have been incensed by the awarding of the contracts to the two Croatian vessels, which took up their positions before Christmas off Dover and north-west Scotland.

Brian Orrell, general secretary of Numast, the ships' officers' union, said the Croatian charter made a mockery of the Donaldson report.

"These ships are to be operated by the Coastguard Agency to provide cover in British waters and to be part of the British emergency services," he said. "The Government should spell out exactly how flag-of-convenience ships can be chartered on government work with foreign-speaking crews.''

United Towing of Hull won the coastguard contract against bids from the operators of 35 vessels flying 17 different flags. It is believed that only two British ships were involved in the bidding.

The tugs will be under the day-to-day operational control of the coastguard, but the agency said the crewing of the ships was not an issue. "The contract is with United Towing. The conditions of service are the business of that company rather than the coastguard," a spokesman said.

Union sources said the Croatians were likely to be paid about half the rate of UK seafarers. A British master on a similar vessel could expect to earn £25,000 a year and a seaman £10,000.

Eric Johnson, salvage manager of United Towing, said the tugs were of a high standard and had been working in the North Sea oil industry. A British master was on board as a liaison officer to work with the Croatian crew.

United Towing operates a number of tugs with British crews but Mr Johnson said there were none of the size necessary for the coastguard contract. "If any of our vessels were suitable we would use them. It's all come a bit too late for the British shipping industry."

Numast is unhappy that the Croation crew has been given permission to work in British waters. Since 1980 the number of British seafarers has fallen by 75 per cent to fewer than 20,000, many of whom work on foreign ships. The number of British ships has dropped from 1,614 in 1975 to 258.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living