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Fog strands oilworkers

OFFSHORE oilworkers have been stranded on North Sea oil rigs for as much as seven days as a result of thick fog in the East Shetland Basin over the past two weeks.

A hefty backlog has built up at Shetland’s Scatsta oil airport with few days since mid July where all 15 daily fixed wing flights have been able to take off or land.

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The airport also suffered lightning damage to its radar and radio equipment during Friday night’s storms that took 24 hours to fix.

Airport manager Colin Jones said summer fog was expected, but it had been later and worse than ever this year.

“It’s not doing any of us any good but we will just continue to operate as and when we can,” he said.

Meanwhile Sumburgh airport has suffered minimal disruption, according to airport manager Nigel Flaws. Several flights had been delayed, but only last Friday saw a large number of cancellations, he said.

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Jake Molloy, regional organiser of the offshore union RMT, said hundreds of workers had been affected and the longest he had heard of anyone being stranded offshore this month was seven days.

He said the East Shetland Basin was “synonymous with fog whenever we get good weather and high pressure on shore” and it affected workers onshore as well as offshore, as those unable to get to work could suffer financially.

The oil companies have drafted in “walk to work” vessels to transfer men by sea when aircraft could not fly.

“My members say they landed a man on the moon in 1969 and we can’t get home from our work. You just wonder why we can’t get a technical solution to the problem,” he said.

A spokesman for the industry body Oil & Gas UK said that delays of three or four days could normally be expected, but seven days was a long time for someone to be stuck working on a rig.

As far as the companies were concerned though, fog was “part and parcel of working in this environment”.

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