The grounding of a 17,000-tonne oil drilling rig carrying 280 tonnes of diesel last week highlights the need to reinstate axed Emergency Towing Vessels (ETV), the union Nautilus has said. The union was speaking after the Orkney-based Herakles – Britain’s only remaining ETV, operated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) – was deployed to assist the Transocean Winner rig which ran aground on the Western Isles of Scotland on 10 August after breaking from its tug in heavy seas. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has begun an inquiry into what happened as the semi-submersible platform was being towed from Norway to Malta. It is understood that from Malta, the rig was to be taken to a yard in Turkey to be scrapped. Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said: “The incident highlights the vital work that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) do in protecting life at sea. If the ETV had not been available then lives would have been at risk and the chances of environmental damage would have been greatly increased” (Risks 761). The union leader added: “The government only agreed to retain the use of Herakles in Orkney last month and this highlights how important that decision was. I hope the government looks closely at this incident and reconsiders the risk for other coastal areas of the UK not served by government-funded ETVs.” The union has run a lengthy campaign against the axing of the crucial safety vessels (Risks 587). The four ETVs were introduced after the Braer and Sea Empress tanker disasters, but three were withdrawn following the 2010 public spending review.