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Pollution fears after Prospect sinking

The Banff registered whitefish boat Prospect sinking in Lerwick harbour on Monday evening - Photo: Malcolm Younger

LERWICK harbour is guarding itself against a pollution incident after it emerged that the fishing boat, which sank there on Monday night, was carrying 22,000 litres of fuel.

Divers have been inspecting the Banff registered Prospect which sank after running aground on a well marked reef in the harbour’s north entrance.

Reports of the smell of fuel have already been reported and tour operators in the area have voiced concerned for wildlife with breeding birds and a colony of common seals in the vicinity.

Harbourmaster Callum Grains said they were in discussion with the vessel’s insurers and monitoring the wreck to check for debris and pollution.

“There have been some small signs of pollution on the surface,” he said.

“The bunkers on the Prospect were marine gas oil, quite a light oil, so we are seeing some small rainbow sheens on the surface.

“Now that the wreck herself is outside the channel my main concern is to get that oil removed.”

The fishing boat was heading out to sea on Monday night with four crew on board after landing fish and taking on stores and fuel when she hit a rock, locally known as Skibby Baas, at full speed and in perfect weather conditions.

The lifeboat was on the scene within five minutes of the incident as the crew were already mustering for an exercise when they overheard radio reports from the Prospect crew that they had run aground.

The boat was lifted off the rock by the rising tide, but was so badly holed that she sank quickly.

The lifeboat and the harbour’s pilot boat Knab towed her outside the navigation channel where she went down in 15 metres of water. 

Lerwick lifeboat second coxswain Gary Bremner said there was nothing they could have done to stop her from sinking.

“She was very badly holed, we had six pumps on and once the tide was rising we realised there was more water was coming in than we could deal with.

“So when she floated off the rocks herself we had to take the decision to tow her into shallow water.”

He said they had provided two pumps and the coastguard had brought in another two, which were now lying underwater waiting to be retrieved while replacement pumps are brought north in case of another incident.

The Prospect crew had meanwhile boarded the lifeboat and spent the night in Lerwick before leaving the islands on the 7.40am flight to Aberdeen.

The harbour has been in touch with the vessel insurer with the view to salvage the vessel.

A coastguard spokeswoman said their divers would be able to carry out temporary repairs to the fuel tanks if that proved necessary 

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