How war of the stranded tug has left its owners facing a bill for £400k
‘Protect nuclear deterrent’ ‘At all times acted reasonably’
ITS first role was escorting the Queen on board the Royal Yacht Britannia as it left harbour for the newly crowned monarch’s first overseas trip.
The vessel was also the pride and joy of the Clyde community that built it.
But five years after the Golden Cross was irreparably damaged in a storm, the owners of the tug have seen their hopes of compensation hit the rocks.
Stuart White, 72, and business partner David Symon, 66, had demanded £150,000 from the Ministry of Defence, claiming more could have been done to save the vessel after it was rescued from sinking in 2013.
They claimed Ian White, Deputy Queen’s Harbour Master – who works for the MoD – ‘neglected’ the boat after officials tied it to a buoy and did not make attempts to prevent an engine room oil spill.
But in a ruling at the Court of Session yesterday, judge Lady Wise ruled against the two men and ordered them to pay the £441,511 cost of the environmental operation needed to clean up the spill.
In the judgment, Lady Wise said: ‘I conclude that the Deputy Queen’s Harbourmaster acted reasonably at all times.’
She added that ‘until he had visited the vessel and seen the extent of the contaminated water inside the engine room, he left a final decision to beach the vessel until he had assessed personally that nothing else was possible’.
During the legal case the MoD countered the claims, arguing that the Golden Cross’s position in the Clyde posed a danger to submarines and vessels from HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane, near Helensburgh.
The boat was eventually stripped of its equipment and scrapped.
Lady Wise said Ian White had a ‘duty to protect the UK’s nuclear deterrent, avoid contamination of the loch if possible but also take any available steps to save the vessel’.
She added: ‘He approached the management in a reasonable and proportionate manner.’
The 86ft Golden Cross, built in 1955 by Scott & Sons of Bowling, Dunbartonshire, had an illustrious career.
She helped escort the Royal Yacht from Teesside on her first overseas voyage in 1956, when the Queen and Prince Philip set sail for a state visit to Sweden.
By the time Mr White and his wife, former Bond girl Suzie Wong, discovered the tug she was stuck in the mud and waiting to be dismantled at a scrapyard in Portsmouth.
The actress – who starred in the 007 adventure The Man With The Golden Gun as well as The Killing Fields and Full Metal Jacket – bought the tug in 1996 and set about restoring her.
In 1997 the tug assisted Britannia on her final voyage from London to Portsmouth, prior to her decommissioning.
The Golden Cross was eventually taken back to Dunbartonshire and moored opposite the Royal Navy’s Coulport base.
But disaster struck when a buoy holding the tug broke free in a storm and she ran aground on a nearby beach. The vessel was then secured to an MoD buoy on Loch Goil where she remained for ten days. The tug’s owners claimed MoD staff did not try to reduce water levels on board, which would have enabled the vessel to be taken to a pier for repairs.
However, lawyers for the Ministry of Defence stated that officials did everything possible to save the boat.
In her judgment, Lady Wise said the vessel was in poor condition.
She added: ‘While there was some dispute about the condition of the Golden Cross, I consider Mr Symon’s description of the vessel’s superstructure as “fine albeit needing a lick of paint” was over-optimistic.’
Sorry state: Tug before it was scrapped
Legal battle: Stuart White