A new agreement with the oil industry to release one of BP's vessels to respond to potential pollution incidents in waters around Scotland has been welcomed.
The deal means the coastguard can call on the BP-chartered Grampian Frontier to provide emergency towing capability.
The emergency response and rescue vessel will operate west of Shetland and the owner North Star Shipping is working with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to ensure that the crew and equipment are able to respond.
It builds on the UK Government-backed emergency vessel already in operation, which Scottish Secretary Michael Moore confirmed last year would continue to be funded for the rest of the spending review up to 2015.
During the launch of the agreement at Aberdeen Harbour, BP North Sea regional president Trevor Garlick said: "BP has had a major presence in the Shetland region for many decades and is investing significantly to develop its business there.
"While the primary risk to the marine environment and Scottish coastline is from transient vessels passing the islands - as opposed to from the domestic oil and gas industry - we are prepared to help in the interests of the wider community. We have reached an agreement under which the Grampian Frontier vessel can be released from its day-to-day operational role if an emergency arises that requires her help."
The oil giant also announced it is investing up to 250,000 US dollars (£161,000) towards new towing equipment to upgrade its fleet of Caledonian regional support vessels.
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said he hoped other companies would follow BP and register their vessels for the scheme. He said: "Today's agreement shows a clear commitment and leadership by BP and North Star to support efforts to protect the environment. This is a powerful signal of their support for counter pollution and they are setting a great example to the wider industry."
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "We welcome the Government's acknowledgement that one emergency towing vessel was simply never enough to cover Scotland's vast sea area and its high level of vessel traffic.
"While our preference has always been for at least two, permanent, government-backed vessels, this announcement will go some way to reducing the risk of future environmental disasters like the Braer. As this is an untested arrangement we will be watching extremely closely to see how it performs."