How war of the stranded tug has left its own­ers fac­ing a bill for £400k

Scottish Daily Mail - - Weekender - By Sam Walker

‘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

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