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Six months for domestic assault

A FORTY seven year old man from Brae was sent to prison for six months when he appeared from custody before Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday after admitting he assaulted his wife at their home address at 1Hevdaland on 19 December 2010.
 
Sheriff Graeme Napier told James Pearson that his behaviour had been "absolutely disgraceful" and warned him that should he ever appear again before the court on an assault charge he would jail him for the longest possible period.
 
Pearson had pled guilty at an earlier court hearing to throwing a bag of refuse at his partner, knocking her to the ground, repeatedly striking and kicking her on her body, grabbing her by the throat and compressing it , all to her injury.

He also pled guilty to behaving in a threatening manner at the same address on the same day.

The court heard how Pearson had come home drunk, started shouting and then launched into a prolonged assault on his partner.

Defence solicitor Gregor Kelly said his client had no recollection of the assault, which happened after he had drunk almost a bottle of vodka with a neighbour.

He added that Pearson had “used his partner as the proverbial punchbag.”

It emerged that Pearson had previous conviction for exactly the same charge.

Sheriff Graeme Napier told Pearson: “It is impossible for me, as a male, to understand the feeling of a female who is assaulted by her partner. This is the second time that you stand before me for assaulting your partner. It is a very serious offence.”

The six month prison sentence was backdated to 21 December, the date Pearson was taken into custody.

In brief for 12 January 2011

Trial delayed further

THE TRIAL of former Shetland man Chris Readings was delayed for the second day running at the High Court in Aberdeen due to technical problems with video link equipment.

Mr Readings, aged 44, of Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire, denies a series of charges that he sexually abused and assaulted two children in Shetland.

The trial is due to start again on Wednesday.

 

Helliar’s here

NORTHLINK’S new freight vessel arrived in Lerwick for the first time on Tuesday morning almost one week behind schedule.

The 122 metre ship’s maiden voyage from Aberdeen on Wednesday last week ended after a turbo charger failed on one of her engines and high seas and strong winds forced her back to port after sheltering off Orkney.

Engineers were waiting at Aberdeen with replacement parts, but the repairs took longer than expected to carry out.

Helliar finally left Aberdeen at 9pm on Monday and arrived at 10 am on Tuesday. The vessel will have her naming ceremony next month in Kirkwall.

 

Offshore safety

SAFETY inspections on oil and gas platforms in the North Sea and north Atlantic are to be stepped up, energy secretary Chris Huhne has announced.

Having already announced an increase in the number of Health and Safety Executive offshore inspectors last year following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr Huhne has said the number of checks will almost double from 80 to 150 a year.

Two inspectors will also be used to inspect more complex projects, such as deep water drilling operations.

Last week a House of Commons select committee warned that prevention was better than cure in the harsh environment around Shetland, where it is almost impossible to clean up an oil spill.

Pub Landlord Al Murray at the Click

BRITAIN’S best known pub philosopher Al Murray is stretching his hugely popular Barrel of Fun tour to the far north by staging a show in Shetland.

Staggering from the success of his UK-wide tour, the Pub Landlord has added an extra leg by travelling to Stirling, Stornoway, Kirkwall, Inverness and Lerwick, where he will perform at the Clickimin Leisure Complex on 9 June.

The event has been organised by Shetland promoter Davie Gardner in collusion with Inverness-based Beyond Promotions.

Mr Gardner said: “Al Murray is without question one of the UK’s top comedians and so I’m delighted he’s specifically asked to come to Shetland as part of his hilarious ‘Barrel of Fun’ tour.

“He’s a master of working his audience and integrating them into the show so we can look forward to a great night of banter and hilarity.”

Tickets go on sale through the Shetland Box Office at 9am on 22 January priced £25.50, by phoning 01595 745555 or 692114. Tickets will also be available from Seetickets at www.seetickets.com and Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.co.uk

Under 16s will only be admitted if they are accompanied by an adult.

Folk festival line-up announced

NORTHERN Europe and America dominate this year’s Shetland Folk Festival, which has announced its line up of visiting artists for the 31st outing of this award winning event over four days at the end of April.

Having scooped the ‘Event of the Year’ gong at last year’s MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, the festival organisers are boasting 14 visiting bands from “at least” nine different countries at this year’s shindig.

From across the Atlantic come old time country “hillbilly hurricane” The Wilders, from Kansas City, Missouri; rag time blues maestros Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three; attractive young Louisiana Cajun fiddle fusion family band L’Angelus; and from Canada the acclaimed Quebecois three piece Genticorum who weave fiddle, flute, voice, guitar and bass into “a jubilant musical feast”.

Scotland provides three big names in folk and roots music with Gaelic piping genius Fred Morrison and his trio; the highly popular Breabach who also bring pipes and step dance to their big sound; and the up and coming Newcastle-based all female six piece The Shee, who combine folk, Scots, Gaelic and bluegrass music.

The Shee, who include some English members, met at Newcastle University’s folk and traditional music degree course, whose principal guitar tutor Chris Newman waves the flag for England with his “astonishing variety of styles and techniques from blues influences, jigs and reel, bluegrass and jazz”.

Ireland this year is represented by the hotly tipped Oonagh Derby Band, a highly rated singer whose band features Ireland’s greatest banjo player Gerry O’Connor and “god of the bodhran” Gino Lupari, who will team up as a duo during the festival bringing back memories of their days with Four Men and a Dog.

From Poland comes the unique sound of high energy folk dance band Beltaine, with more supercharged dance music being provided by Norwegian/Swedish quintet Sver who are heavily influenced by Scandinavia’s traditional mountain music.

Fellow Norwegians Knerten & Co have been invited as the Festival Club’s leading session band, thanks to their reputation for delivering traditional Norwegian folk music with humour and energy.

The final international name is Harald Haugaard, billed as “one of the world’s best folk fiddlers”, who brings his quartet featuring his wife Helene Blum, whose singing has impressed audiences all over the world.

The visiting musicians will be shown how to enjoy a Shetland spree by island stars such as Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag and Bryan Gear & Violet Tulloch.

The festival runs from 28 April to 1 May and advance festival membership goes on sale on 21 January until 25 February. Members will be able to buy tickets from 12 March, while everyone else must wait until 1 April.

More information about the event and this year’s acts is available at www.shetlandfolkfestival.com

Northwards deal could open new routes

A DIRECT freight link between Shetland and Norway could be one outcome from a takeover deal struck by Lerwick-based haulage business Northwards and Norwegian transport giant Sea Cargo.

On Tuesday the two businesses announced Sea Cargo had purchased a 62.5 per cent controlling share in the island company set up in 2002 after a management buy out of the road haulage arm of shipping line P&O when they lost the northern isles ferry contract to NorthLink.

The deal sees the return of a familiar face to Shetland in the form of Murray Prentice, who sold his own haulage company JBT three years ago and left the industry for corporate consultancy work in Glasgow.

Mr Prentice has been taken an as a non executive director and consultant to help the two companies merge their operations over the next few months.

Northwards managing director Neil Leslie described the deal as “a very positive move” for his company, which would strengthen its existing operations and potentially open up new areas of business.

Sea Cargo and Northwards have worked out of the same depot in Aberdeen’s Matthews Quay for almost nine years. The Norwegian firm approached their Shetland counterparts six months ago about the potential merger.

Mr Leslie said Sea Cargo, which was formed in 2001 when a number of major Norwegian shipping lines joined forces, was the only company operating direct freight links between Aberdeen and Norway.

“Sea Cargo are coming in with three or four new vessels and are always looking at new routes, and who is to say they could not combine their work in Shetland and in Norway,” he said.

“There is nothing on the table for that at the moment, but Sea Cargo is a company that will do anything to achieve an opportunity if they see it as being a profitable option.”

Mr Leslie said the deal was a good start to the new year and there was no risk to the 100 full and part time jobs at its bases in Shetland, Orkney, Aberdeen, Scrabster and Inverness.

“It’s business as usual and maybe a few months down the line we will be busier and have a few more strings to our bow. This is probably going to develop us into a more efficient company than we are at the moment.

“If we take some of the strategies and processes that Sea Cargo do in their business and apply them to Northwards I can only see things being a lot rosier for us.”

Sea Cargo’s fleet renewal programme will see the world’s first freighters powered solely by liquefied natural gas in a bid to improve their environmental performance.

Sea Cargo managing director Ole Sævild said: “I am very pleased with the new strategic joint venture – and very optimistic about the possibilities. The concept of this joint venture includes introduction of new and modern services, equipment and not least

new routes to complete the existing transport network.

“Sea Cargo, who is also a ship owner with a focus on vessels operations and sea based infrastructure, will certainly also be looking at the possibilities of introducing a new and modern sea-based infrastructure – using modern multi-purpose ships with cargo handling facilities for any type of cargo.”

Attempts by West Burrafirth businessman John White to set up a direct freight link between Shetland and Norway two years ago on the back of the NORSHUKON “Motorway of the Sea” project linking Kritiansund and Zeebrugge have failed to materialise.

Fisherman’s sudden death

SHETLAND police reported that a 51 year old fisherman had died suddenly on a Fraserburgh fishing boat on Tuesday morning.

The Rebecca came in to Lerwick harbour at around 6.30am after reporting a dead crew man on board.

The police, who boarded the vessel and carried out enquiries, said the death was not thought to be suspicious but will not release the dead man’s name until next of kin have been informed.

A report is to be submitted to the procurator fiscal.

White fish fleet waves off Whalsay boat

A SHETLAND white fish boat that has been a mainstay of the local fleet for the past 36 years has been scrapped on the Scottish mainland.

Last Tuesday eight Shetland boats landed bumper catches on the first day of the 2011 fish market in Lerwick.

That morning Athena skipper Magnus Jamieson and two of his elderly crewmen set off from Lerwick heading for Macduff on their vessel’s final voyage to the breakers yard.

The Athena is the only Shetland boat to take advantage of a new decommissioning scheme set up by the Scottish government as part of its effort to help maintain the white fish industry by spreading out reduced quotas and fishing effort amongst other vessels.

Sixty five year old Mr Jamieson said he was happy to retire after 50 years at sea, but conditions are such in 2011 that no young crew can afford to start up where he has left off.

Last year the Athena “parked” its fishing licence under a new government scheme that allows other boats to buy up all or part of a vessel’s fishing effort.

However ‘licence parking’ left redundant boats clogging up Scottish harbours, so Edinburgh brought in a decommissioning scheme to pay for those vessels to be scrapped.

Waving goodbye to the Athena was a sad start to 2011 for Shetland’s white fish fleet, which has picked itself up from an unsustainable low of 20 vessels five years ago to 25 boats today.

Two years ago there was talk of a white fish revival with record landings at Lerwick’s new electronic fish market, but such hopes have been squelched by a management system that fishermen say is out of touch with reality on the fishing grounds.

Last month saw the December EU fisheries council cut the North Sea cod quota by 20 per cent.

Yet Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive Hansen Black says that local crews are finding it increasingly difficult not to catch the species.

“Cod has become increasingly abundant in local waters and fishermen are spending more time speaking to each other about how to avoid catching cod than about catching fish, which is their job. It’s a very frustrating position to be in,” he said.

He says there is still an optimism in the local white fish fleet, but the economics simply do not allow young crews to start a new business.

“In Shetland fishermen are willing to invest in the future, in boats and buying fishing quota and buying licences to maintain the viability of their businesses,” Mr Black said.

“Everybody would have wanted the Athena to stay in Shetland and a young crew to take it over, but the cost of starting in the industry is proving prohibitive. At least the quota and the fishing effort will remain in Shetland.”

Magnie Jamieson shares the frustrations of other fishermen who see their industry being strangled by a bureaucracy that is unable to take on board the reality they see on the fishing grounds.

“It’s going to be very hard for young men to get into the white fish industry. They can’t buy boats, they can’t buy quota, they can’t buy days at sea. To pay for boats is simply impossible.”

He started the Athena in 1974 with a crew of eight, but as the technology improved and the restrictions tightened they were reduced to five men by last year.

“The number of days at sea went from as many as we wanted down to 200, then 160 and this year it’s 105.

“And the fish we’ve dumped this last two or three years is phenomenal. You name it, we’ve dumped it – cod, megrim, whiting. Once the politicians got hold of it, it was the end of the fishing industry.”

He says that throughout his half century at sea he has seen species come and go. “In 1974 we couldn’t get a haddock or a cod, then it was only cod, then it was haddock. That’s how it goes. Some years it’s very, very scarce, some years it’s very, very good. It’s been like that all the time I’ve been fishing. Some years are good and some years are bad for all species.”

This year fishing leaders hope to see changes in the way fisheries science and management systems are calculated.

There are top level meetings planned to look at reducing discards and fishermen want to be more involved in providing the scientific data that feeds into the quota talks

Mr Black said: “You will never get the perfect system but at the moment we firmly believe that the cod quotas are way out of line with the amount of fish that’s on the ground. It’s blatantly obvious, even the scientists agree but the management system is pushing the quotas down.”

“There needs to be a strong attack on the management system. That’s going to have to be the main focus this year. There’s a lot of discussion about reducing or eliminating discards and the management is tied to weak and flimsy science, so we are going to have to look at ways of making the whole system more robust.

“We need to have an industry where once again the NAFC is full of young fishermen being trained to do their apprenticeship and then go and look at purchasing a vessel, to allow that entrepreneurial spirit to flourish.

“Because at the amount of fish in the sea around Shetland is the best that most fishermen can remember.”

Oil and fish workers airlifted

SHETLAND coastguard airlifted two oil workers to hospital in Aberdeen on Sunday, but could not help a Scottish fisherman on Friday night because the sea was too rough.

The Rescue 102 helicopter was scrambled at Sumburgh around 9.30am on Sunday to fly to the Dunbar platform around 80 miles east of Shetland where a man was complaining of severe chest pain.

However en route a call came in from the neighbouring North Alwyn platform where another man was suffering similar problems. The chopper crew picked both patients up and on medical advice flew them to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

The Shetland coastguard crew had a tougher time on Friday night when they tried to airlift a fisherman from the Inverness registered Apollo who had partially severed his finger and crushed his hand while working 70 miles south east of Shetland.

Conditions at sea were so rough the coastguard winchman was unable to land on the boat, so the Apollo headed for Lerwick harbour in the teeth of a north westerly gale.

Nine hours later at around 3am the man was landed at Lerwick harbour and taken to Gilbert Bain Hospital where he was treated.

Work starts on joint SIC/NHS centre

CONSTRUCTION work on a new £2.3 million occupational therapy and community nursing centre in Lerwick begins on Monday.

Shetland Islands Council’s community care spokesman Councillor Cecil Smith will cut the first turf at the Point of Scattland site at Gremista for a building which will provide the islands’ first central base for the service.

The council and NHS Shetland will share office facilities once the building is completed in the summer of 2012.

Disabled people will be able to try out and receive instruction on a range of therapeutic equipment once the centre is completed.

Joint SIC/NHS occupational therapy service manager Josephine Robinson said the building would allow both organisations to provide a unified service to clients.

“Equipment storage and maintenance, training, consultation and administration for occupational and speech therapy will all be in one easily accessible location,” she said.
 
The new building will store equipment such as electric beds, electric chairs, hoists and shower chairs and small items such as bath aids, bed and chair raisers, toilet frames, as well as wheelchairs belonging to NHS Grampian.
 
The top floor will have a large demonstration area with a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom to allow people to test out equipment. It will also be used for training and other sessions, such as wheelchair clinics.

A speech therapy suite incorporating office and consulting rooms will also be situated on the top floor.
 
The middle floor will consist of office space for occupational therapy staff and further storage for smaller items of equipment.
 
Local contractor MK Leslie are carrying out the enabling works, with the main construction going out to tender in April so that work can commence during this summer.

Communities prepare to fight for schools

THE LATEST battle over school closures in Shetland is set to commence on Monday when the local authority starts a 35 day consultation over the future of four rural primaries.

Last June councillors voted to carry out a review of the schools in Uyeasound, Burravoe, North Roe and Sandness.

The move is part of the Blueprint for Education review, which is seeking to reduce the council’s huge £42 million schools budget by around £6 million.

Last month councillors voted to go ahead with plans to close Scalloway junior high school in the face of enormous community opposition. Local MSP Tavish Scott has joined the Scalloway parents council in asking for the Scottish government to re-examine the decision.

At the same meeting councillors voted to retain the smallest secondary school in Scotland on Out Skerries where just three pupils attend, after hearing that its closure would have devastating effects on the island’s economy.

Now parents of children at the four primaries are gearing up for their own battle to save their schools from the axe.

Derek Jamieson, of Uyeasound, on the isle of Unst, said that this was the fourth time the council had attempted to close their 11 pupil primary school in the past 10 years, despite a glowing report from the school inspectors.

The Uyeasound community is starting to thrive again with young families moving in, partly due to the local authority building a £3.3 million pier in 2009 to support the local salmon industry.

“There’s a lot of young families moving back and building houses. If you lost those young folk we would become an ageing community, not a thriving one,” Mr Jamieson said.

He added that the battle over the local school has actually drawn the community together, but it was frustrating that the council kept returning with a new attempt at closure.

This time however parents can look to the Scottish government for help through the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010, which demands good educational reasons for closing schools rather than the financial motives which are driving the council’s review.

The latest consultation begins on Monday and ends on Sunday 13 March, with public meetings in all four communities being held in late January and early February.

A consultation on losing the Olnafirth primary school in Voe will commence in August.

Snow closes most island schools

MOST of Shetland’s schools had to close on Friday morning due to the continuing wintry weather.

By 8am Shetland Islands Council had notified parents that 15 schools would not open, but that number had grown to 22 schools by lunchtime.

Four schools at Scalloway, Bressay, Nesting and Mid Yell decided to send children home after classes began.

An SIC spokeswoman said that it had been up to individual schools to decide whether to open or not.

Transport around the isles has been affected with several minor road accidents but no injuries.

Local police advised drivers to stay at home, saying that they were sending their own office staff home on Friday afternoon due to the forecast.

The council’s roads department said that the roads had been cleared of snow, but with the snow turning wetter as the wind moved to the south west, slushy conditions were making the roads slippery.

Sumburgh airport was closed during Friday morning but reopened around noon, with passengers being warned that they should expect delays.

Scatsta airport reported that oil industry fixed wing flights to and from Aberdeen were managing to get in and out of the isles, while helicopter flights offshore were running slightly behind schedule.

However islanders on Foula and Fair Isle have been cut off from air travel for two days with no flights able to land on Thursday or Friday due to accumulations of snow on the runways.

Forecasters were saying that temperatures were set to fall to -4°C overnight, with more snow due to fall on Friday afternoon particularly in the north of the islands.

Snow showers will die down during the night only to start again around 4am, but the cold weather should ease on Monday.

CAB launches heating bill helpline

A DEDICATED helpline to help people in Shetland struggling to pay for heating their homes has been launched by the Citizens Advice Bureau.

The recent cold weather, which is set to return on Thursday, has combined with rising fuel costs and the hike in VAT to put further pressure on heating bills.

CAB’s Lerwick office assistant manager Sylvia Jamieson said that one third of Shetland households were thought to be living in fuel poverty, spending more than 10 per cent of their income on keeping their home warm.

“We know of folk who are living in one room because that’s all they can afford to heat, or they are having to go without essentials, cutting back on their food shopping or going without buying new shoes or clothes for the family in order to meet their fuel bills,” Ms Jamieson said.

People phoning the helpline can find out if they are receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Anyone in fuel poverty may be entitled to a rebate or a discounted tariff on their electricity costs and help with making their home more energy efficient. 

The dedicated phone line is being launched in partnership with Shetland Islands Council and other agencies. It can be contacted on 01595 743950 from 10 to 21 January, on Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 12.30pm.

One single parent on benefits who approached CAB in Lerwick said: “I have found the cost of heating my house this winter has increased over 50 per cent. This has meant I have switched off most of the heaters in the house, and mainly just heat the living room. 

“On really cold nights we go to my mother’s house to sleep, as it’s warmer there. The amount of benefit has not increased in line with how much heating costs have gone up, and we’re really struggling to manage.”

Local CAB manager Les Irving said: “Folk may be unaware what assistance is out there to help them. Our specialised advisers can look at each case individually, and help them complete any necessary paperwork in order to access benefits, rebates or reduced electricity tariffs, depending on what they are eligible for.

“We can also assist them to get help with accessing services to improve the efficiency of their home. They can also be reassured that all our advice is free, confidential and independent.”

In 2008 a similar campaign targeting people aged over 60 found that 90 per cent of people who made contact were living in fuel poverty, spending more than 10 per cent of their income on maintaining a satisfactory heating regime.

The campaign helped in more than 60 separate cases, resulting in almost £50,000 in extra benefits. A further £7,500 was saved on heating costs.

Most of the people in fuel poverty in Shetland are pensioners but the problem is affecting a growing number of people, which is why the campaign is being spread to all age groups this year.

Crash puts two women in hospital

TWO women were taken to hospital after a two vehicle collision on the main road out of Lerwick on Wednesday afternoon.

Fire crews were called to the scene on North Road outside Leasks Garage at 3.30pm, where a retained fire officer was already administering first aid.

One of the women was released from her vehicle with the help of ‘spreaders’ use to make it easier to free her before she was taken to Gilbert Bain Hospital by ambulance.

The other woman was described as elderly. She was taken to hospital for a precautionary check.

Meanwhile two drivers are to be reported to the procurator fiscal after being clocked well above the 20mph speed limit outside two Shetland schools on Wednesday morning.

Police said a 21 year old man was seen driving at 50mph outside the Tingwall primary school. The road normally carries a 30mph speed limit and he was stopped just before the 20mph restriction came into effect.

A 39 year old woman was recorded travelling at 48mph outside Whiteness primary school while the 20mph limit was active.
 
Acting inspector Bruce Gray said the police were carrying out proactive speed checks on the day children returned to school and said police were “both concerned and disappointed that drivers continue to speed, particularly in and around schools”.

Climate Challenge Fund reopens

THE SCOTTISH government’s popular Climate Challenge Fund has reopened for applications in 2011/12 with a £10.3 million pot to help communities reduce their carbon footprint.

The fund has already invested £27.4 million in 331 community projects since it was set up in 2008 and the government has increased the size of the fund by £1 million since last year.

Shetland projects have received more than £350,000 with assistance going to fund Shetland Amenity Trust’s carbon reduction officer; Powerdown officers in Northmavine and Unst; allotment groups in Mossbank, Sandwick and Unst; a polytunnel project in Northmavine; a district heating scheme in Aith and a renewable energy project on Foula.

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said the final size of the fund was subject to the government’s budget being approved by the Scottish Parliament.

Applications to apply for funding can be downloaded at www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/ccf.

West of Shetland spill clean up impossible

A GOVERNMENT committee report rejecting European calls for a moratorium on deep sea drilling for oil and gas off Shetland has been welcomed by a local critic of the industry.

Wildlife tour operator Jonathan Wills said the report by the House of Commons energy and climate change committee into deepwater drilling following the Gulf of Mexico disaster last year was “a model report”.

Dr Wills, who gave evidence to the committee last October as an unpaid consultant for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said he was delighted they had taken up many of the recommendations put to them.

During his presentation to the committee he said: "I haven't seen any containment, dispersal or clean-up system that works in the open Atlantic.”

He welcomed the report’s acknowledgement that it would be virtually impossible to respond to an oil spill in the harsh environment of the open Atlantic west of Shetland.

As a result the report emphasises that “prevention is better than cure” and that any “capping, containment and clean-up systems” take full account of the tough offshore environment the industry is moving into as resources dwindle.

“Many of us have said things like this for many years, but it’s good that this has been recognised,” Dr Wills said on Thursday, after the report’s publication.

“The actual recognition that oil spill containment and clean up kit doesn’t work out there is a big step forwards because it focuses people’s attention on prevention and compensation.”

The committee’s report has called for the government to introduce stricter safety controls offshore, raising concerns that the oil and gas industry is not fully prepared for disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon blowout on 20 April 2010.

While acknowledging the UK and Norway currently have higher safety standards than the US, the industry is geared to “responding to disasters, rather than anticipating worst-case scenarios and planning for high-consequence, low-probability events,” the report said.

One such safety measure the report recommends is the introduction of a second blind shear ram, the device that failed on the Deepwater Horizon that should have sealed the well and prevented the blowout that leaked 8.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Other recommendations include having someone based on every offshore rig with the experience and authority to shutdown a well; greater protection of whistleblowers; and extra Health and Safety Executive inspections to check basic systems like batteries are working – it was a low battery that prevented the blind shear ram on the Deepwater Horizon from functioning.

Dr Wills said: “The critical point is that the oil and gas companies are basically responding to disasters rather than anticipating the worst that can happen, planning for rare events that have catastrophic consequences.”

The report also criticised the current compensation system run by the voluntary Offshore Pollution Liability Association that sets a limit of $250 million, a fraction of the billions it is costing to clean up the damage caused in the Gulf of Mexico.

The report calls for measures to tighten legal loopholes to enforce the “polluter pays” principle, forcing oil companies to prove they have the resources to cover the cost of a clean up and making smaller companies take out third party insurance.

The committee recognised this would add to the cost of investing in new oil and gas production, and urged the Treasury “to reflect this when considering incentives to such investments”.

Any new exploration and production licences should also depend on the company producing a site specific oil spill plan, proving the operator can deal with a blowout.

Dr Wills concluded: “I never expected the committee to recommend a moratorium. We don’t need a moratorium if companies follow best practice and national and international law.

“This is a significant report and I think Tim Yeo and his all party committee have done a very good job. We always despair that the government will ever listen, but this time they really have listened.

“It won’t please everyone in Greenpeace and the Green Party, but I think it’s a step forwards and there are people in the oil industry who will be very pleased to see this report.

“Whatever your views on carbon footprints, if we are going to have an oil industry out there it is possible to run it cleanly and safely.

Northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael added: "This is a sensible report from the select committee. It is right that drilling should be allowed to happen - it is very important to the future of Shetland's economy.

"The report makes it very clear that there is no need for a moratorium. I think that is absolutely the right decision. That's not to say that I am complacent or anybody here in Shetland is complacent about the inherent dangers.

"But the report says that these are dangers that can be managed. I think it is very important though that we take the dangers seriously and we do actually manage them."

The report will feed into the review of the UK’s oil and gas environmental regulatory regime promised by energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne following the outcome of investigations into the Deepwater Horizon incident.

The full report can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmenergy/450/45002.htm

Man admits text threats

A SHETLAND man pled guilty to sending threatening and abusive text messages to a woman when he appeared from custody at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday.

Forty year old Timothy Giles Drury, of 2 Maidenfield. Mossbank, told the woman via text that he intended to distribute sexually explicit images of her and threatening to scar her face by throwing acid at her.

Sentence was deferred for six months for Drury to be of good behaviour.

Engine gremlins mar maiden voyage

NORTHERN isles ferry operator NorthLink’s new cargo vessel had to turn back on her maiden voyage north on Thursday morning after one of her engines lost power.

Helliar had left Aberdeen at 6pm on Wednesday with 12 trailers on board, but suffered a turbo charger failure in one of her engines.

As the weather deteriorated with strong north westerly winds and rough seas, the master of the vessel sheltered off Orkney before deciding to head back to Aberdeen.

She was due in on Thursday evening when engineers were waiting with parts to effect repairs to the 122 metre vessel, which replaced the 37 year old Clare.

NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson said that the ship had undergone modifications at the Cammel Laird shipyard in Birkenhead and there had been no engine problems on the voyage to Aberdeen.

Mr Davidson apologised to customers whose cargo was delayed, saying that it was unlikely to be in Shetland until Saturday. However he said that only seven of the trailers on board were full.

Freight due to go south on board Helliar on Thursday was loaded onto the passenger ferry Hrossey, while the second freight boat Hildasay was due in Lerwick from Aberdeen on Friday.

Mr Davidson told BBC Radio Shetland: “It’s a real disappointment on our maiden voyage. Unfortunately it’s not that unusual that when you get an awful lot of work done on engines then things can go wrong.”

“It’s not an unknown problem and the company are confident they can fix it quite quickly By the time she gets back to Aberdeen there will be a specialist engineer waiting for her to do the necessary work.”

In brief for 6 January 2011

Yell ferry changes

DUE to a funeral in Yell on Saturday, Shetland Islands Council’s ferry service haS amended the Yell Sound time table.

Details can be found here: http://www.shetland.gov.uk/ferries/news.asp

 

Choir seeks voices

Shetland Choral Society starts it weekly rehearsals for their spring concert on Monday 10 January, at 7.15pm in room 5 at Lerwick’s Islesburgh House.

The choir’s vice president Marghie West said anybody interested in joining the choral society is welcome to attend Monday’s rehearsal.

“No audition is needed and all voice parts are welcome, especially in the tenor, baritone and bass ranges,” she said.

The spring concert will include works by Bach, Verdi, and Tchaikovsky, as well as the world premiere of a Requiem written by Philip Taylor, the current director of the choral society.


 

More gas out west

FRENCH oil company Total has found more gas west of Shetland, next to the Laggan and Tormore fields which are currently being developed.

The company announced on Thursday that gas and condensate had been found in the Edradour prospect, 75 miles west of Shetland, in waters 300 metres deep.

Total said that once the appraisal phase of the new discovery is completed, studies will be launched to consider exporting these new resources through the Laggan and Tormore pipeline to Sullom Voe.

The company is currently investing £2.5 billion into unlocking gas from Laggan and Tormore, including a £500 million gas processing plant, next to BP’s Sullom Voe oil terminal.

Total’s senior vice president for Northern Europe, Patrice de Viviès, said: “While definitive testing is still to be completed, Edradour already is another meaningful discovery for us in the west of Shetland region.

“It should reinforce our third production hub on the United Kingdom continental shelf around the Laggan and Tormore fields, after the success of our existing Alwyn and Elgin Franklin hubs.”

Total has a 75 per cent operating interest in the Edradour licence, with DONG E&P UK Limited (DONG) holding the remaining 25 per cent.

Total (80 per cent) and DONG (20 per cent) are also partners in the Laggan and Tormore development, which was sanctioned in March 2010 and is scheduled to produce first gas in 2014.

Snow closes schools and airports

FALLING and drifting snow caused transport problems on Shetland’s roads and airports on Thursday, as islanders prepared themselves for up to six inches to fall overnight.

Flights in and out of Sumburgh were cancelled or ran late during Thursday morning and the airport had to close altogether during the afternoon as conditions worsened.

At the Scatsta oil airport no helicopters were able to carry workers offshore and only three out of nine fixed wing flights made it off the ground.

Police reported two single vehicle road accidents at Fladdabister and in Lerwick, where a car skidded and crashed into a bollard on the roundabout outside Tesco.

Police warned drivers that roads were slippery and advised them to stay at home unless their journey was essential.

The weather closed three schools in the morning at Uyeasound, Baltasound and Unst. The schools at Mossbank and Olnafirth closed at lunchtime and children at Skeld, Sandness and Happyhansel, in Walls, were sent home early at 2.30pm.

The council will decide in the morning whether or not the schools will open on Friday.

Shetland Islands Council’s roads department said that all the islands’ 23 gritter trucks were busy on Thursday and there was plenty of salt available to grit the roads.

Festive bug strikes Hjaltland crew

PASSENGERS boarding the NorthLink ferry Hjaltland in Lerwick, Kirkwall and Aberdeen are being issued a warning letter about a sickness bug on board the vessel.

Over the Christmas and New Year festive period about 16 crew members have come down with “a sickness and diarrhoea type bug”, confining them to their cabin for around 24 hours until its effects have worn off.

The environmental health authorities were immediately notified when the outbreak first appeared, but said it was not necessary to cancel any sailings.

However since 28 December NorthLink has been issuing passengers with a warning letter offering them a full fare refund or an alternative sailing.

The spokesman said that hundreds of passengers had travelled since the outbreak and no one had declined to travel.

“It became clear that the bug wasn't 'festivities related',” the spokesman said on Wednesday.

“Throughout this period the entire boat, while berthed has been clinically 'deep cleaned' as per advice of health authorities.

“We've had one more crew member become ill over the last 36 hours so the bug hasn't completely gone yet and the letters will continue to be issued until we're satisfied that it has gone completely.”

The company apologised for any inconvenience caused to passengers.

Lerwick man charged with fire raising

A MAN who celebrated the new year in the Lerwick police cells has been released on bail by the town’s sheriff court after appearing from custody charged with wilful fire raising.

Forty year old Douglas Anderson Preacher, of 22 Laadies Drive, was arrested after fire fighters took 40 minutes to extinguish what was described as “a serious fire” in a first floor flat in the new Da Vadill housing scheme, at Grantfield, Lerwick.

No one was injured in the blaze that began just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, but the flat’s bedroom was completely destroyed while the rest of the flat was affected by smoke.

On Wednesday, Lerwick Sheriff Court confirmed that Preacher had appeared from custody in private on Monday charged with wilful fire raising.

He made no plea or declaration and the case was continued for further examination.

Simon King backs coastgaurd campaign

THE CAMPAIGN to safeguard Shetland’s coastguard coordination centre from closure has received a boost from popular wildlife film maker Simon King.
The self confessed fan of the far flung islands broughtt the local wildlife to millions of television viewers in his three part Shetland Diaries broadcast in spring last year.
On Wednesday he joined the growing campaign against the government’s economy drive to close either Shetland or Stornoway coastguard stations close, with the remaining station reduced to a daytime only service.
The government is consulting on the plan, which would leave Scotland relying on one 24 hour base in Aberdeen. The consultation ends on 24 March.
Mr King said: “Shetland is a land of sea and storms. The coastguard is an invaluable service to residents and visitors alike, from assistance with an eye on the weather to mobilising rescues and saving lives.
“If they were to disappear, the safety of all who live on or visit the isles would be threatened."
Shetland coastguard watches over an area of approximately 36,500 square miles, where gales can be experienced during any month of the year, frequently reaching Violent Storm Force 11 (72mph)  or Hurricane Force 12 (more than 73mph)  and waves of over 11 metres can be expected.
Speaking on behalf of the Public and Commercial Union (PCS), Lerwick station watch officer Mike Smith said the station looked after a wide range of shipping, including fishing, cargo, tourism, and the offshore oil and gas industry.
“Both Orkney and Shetland are of vital economic importance to the UK acting as strategic hubs for the offshore oil and gas industry with the Flotta oil terminal in Scapa Flow, Orkney, the second largest major oil terminal serving the North Sea, and Sullom Voe in Shetland, the largest oil terminal in Europe,” he said.
Meanwhile, isles MP Alistair Carmichael, the government’s deputy chief whip, is meeting with the Shetland coastguard staff later this week to discuss the proposal and the campaign to Save Our Station - Save Shetland Coastguard.
Petitions to Save Shetland Coastguard are available in shops and businesses throughout the northern isles or can be accessed online at www.gopetition.com/petition/41468.html

Government green lights Sumburgh Head

THE £5 million transformation of Sumburgh Head lighthouse into a top visitor attraction will get under way later this year after the Scottish government provided the final piece of funding.
Enterprise and tourism minister Jim Mather announced on Monday a £1.44 million European Regional Development Fund grant which will move the project from the planning to the construction phase.
Shetland Amenity Trust has spent 10 years working on plans to refurbish the almost 200 year old lighthouse, gradually piecing together public funding for their ambitious plans.
The trust wants to convert the lighthouse, built in 1821 by Robert Stevenson, the grandfather of the famous author, into self-catering holiday accommodation alongside a visitor and exhibition centre.
Sitting on top of the world famous seabird cliffs at Sumburgh Head, the trust is also planning to attach an educational centre to the historic buildings, from where to study Shetland’s varied marine life.
Trust manager Jimmy Moncrieff said on Tuesday that he was delighted to start 2011 with a complete funding package in place.
“It’s going to be a three year project and will be of huge importance the whole Ness area. Without the ERDF funding we would not be able to proceed. It is a great way to start the new year,” he said.
The project will also receive £683,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £1.5 million from Shetland Development Trust, £300,000 from London-based charity the Wolfson Foundation, and £200,000 from Highland and Islands Enterprise.
Further funding under the Scottish Rural Development Fund (SRDF) is expected to be announced soon.
Mr Mather said: “The development of visitor attractions like the facilities at Sumburgh Head will ensure tourists continue to enjoy a superb visitor experience when they spend time travelling across the region.”

Cash for district heating to expand

THE popular Lerwick district heating scheme is to expand further this year thanks to a government grant that will trigger a million pound investment by Shetland Charitable Trust.

Low Carbon Shetland is to receive £800,000 from the European Rural Development Fund to install a huge hot water tank that will supply more energy into the expanding scheme.

The tank will also help stabilise the islands’ electricity grid to allow more renewable power to be generated in the isles.

The grant will allow more than 300 new customers to be connected to the heating scheme, including 30 or so businesses.

A hot water tank will store up to 150 megawatt hours of energy and a pumping station will allow residents in the Staney Hill area to be connected to the scheme.

The charitable trust has already agreed to invest around £1.2 million into the expansion, pending this 40 percent grant towards the £2 million project.

The district heating scheme is powered by the waste to energy plant at Lerwick’s Greenhead. This will be supplemented by three 2.3 megawatt turbines, to be operated by Scottish & Southern Energy, whose energy will be stored in the hot water tank.

Shetland Heat Energy and Power Ltd (SHEAP) manager Neville Martin said on Tuesday the scheme was innovative and ground breaking in that it would allow the district heating scheme to expand, while helping the nearby power station to deal with growing supply of renewable energy from wind.

“One of the short comings of wind power is that it is very erratic and you need storage to cover for periods when there isn’t any wind. This scheme goes some of the way to addressing that,” Mr Martin said.

“The reason why we are doing this here in Shetland is, of course, because we have a district heating scheme. That was the catalyst that got us thinking, which means the district heating scheme now also benefits other parts of Shetland.”

The Scottish government also announced a £1.3 million European grant towards increased energy efficiency in social housing across the isles.

This involves a radio linked heating control in storage heaters which would make more efficient use of renewable energy as and when available, and would also help stabilise the Shetland grid, which is not connected to the national grid.