The Maritime and Coastguard Agency
(MCA) and the British Tugowners' Association
(BTA) have this week concluded a revised agreement for instant, no-fuss, tug assistance to be available within U.K. waters.
CAST (Coastguard Agreement for Salvage and Towage) means that, subject to availability, one or more tugs can be instantly mobilised by the MCA when a vessel is in difficulty and poses a threat to life, the environment or property.
The agreement complements the government funded Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs) which are large anchor handling type vessels that provide year-round cover in the Dover Strait, South West Approaches, the Minches and the Fair Isle area.
The first CAST agreement was drafted in 1997 following the recommendations on the Donaldson report. This was done by Holmes Hardingham, the City based international maritime law firm at the request of the BTA and with the support of the MCA. Holmes Hardingham has also been responsible for the subsequent redrafts made to accommodate changing requirements, working closely with representatives of both the MCA and the BTA.
By agreeing the tug(s) daily hire rates and contractual terms in advance, all that is required in response to an incident when vessels are in danger within UK waters is a telephone call from the MCA to the tug owner to mobilise any of the tugs on the agreed schedule.
CAST is a rolling agreement that can be terminated by either the MCA or the tugowner on 30 days notice and has proved to be beneficial to the MCA when utilised in the past.
The tug(s) is under the direction of the MCA while performing services under the agreement. However, the tug owner is free to agree a separate contract with the vessel involved for towage or salvage in substitution of CAST, and any salvage recoverable remains the property of the tug owner.