On 19 March the 112m Dutch-registered motor vessel Flinterspirit ran aground off North Uist and had to be escorted to Stornoway. The vessel became stuck on Flodday Mor Island late at night while on her way from Sweden to Belfast. All ten crew on board were safe and well and they managed to successfully refloat the 4,500-tonne vessel at high tide during the early hours of 20 March.

RNLI lifeboats from Barra Island and Stornoway then escorted the vessel as she made her way to Stornoway on Lewis to be inspected before she was allowed to continue her journey.

The accident came a few days after the emergency coastguard tug was withdrawn from the Minch as part of a cost-cutting drive by the UK government. Campaigners said incidents such as this highlighted the need to have a tug boat permanently stationed in the area.

Anglian Sovereign, the tug hired by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for the Northern Isles, was sent to the scene from Orkney and remained in the Minch until Flinterspirit reached safe anchorage. The incident has reopened the debate about emergency cover for the Western Isles.

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