SHETLAND Islands Council’s two troubled £7 million tugs Solan and Bonxie are being brought back into service having been tied up for almost two years following a collision with a tanker in the oil port of Sullom Voe.
However the council will be considering whether the tugs have a future in Shetland in light of new developments at the oil terminal they service.
The tugs were mothballed when crews refused to board them after the Solan lost power and struck the 76,000 tonne tanker Loch Rannoch in December 2011, less than a year after they were first launched.
At the time crews described it as a “nightmare” incident that could have cost lives.
Modifications costing £60,000 that were carried out on the two tugs during June and July mean they can now steer in a straight line, but further work and crew training is required before they can start work again.
SIC harbourmaster Colin Reeves said the tugs had four fins fitted to the hulls at Leith docks and now steered “as well as you would expect of a Voith tug”.
“They have improved from being very strange to being normal,” he said.
Crews are now being familiarised with the modified vessels, but there will have to be training exercises with tankers before they can be brought back into full service.
Reeves admitted that the tugs were expensive to run due to their powerful engines consuming a lot of fuel, and that the council was considering whether they had a future in Shetland.
He said a project team was being set up to look into the towage requirements of the oil port in light of new developments offshore that mean the Sullom Voe terminal will stay open at least until 2040, 30 years longer than expected.
BP’s massive new £4.5 billion Clair Ridge development west of Shetland is expected to pipe in a substantial flow of crude through the terminal that will significantly increase tanker traffic at the council-run port.
“It may well mean we want to keep (Solan and Bonxie), but we may well decide the extra power isn’t necessary and we will look at something smaller, we don’t know,” Reeves said.
Two tugs that are unlikely to have a long term future at the port are Tirrick and Shalder, which are approaching the end of their working life.
Become a supporter of Shetland News
Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.
Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.
Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has over 500 supporters who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.
Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -
- Bring you the headlines as they happen;
- Stay editorially independent;
- Give a voice to the community;
- Grow site traffic further;
- Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.
If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.
Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.Support Shetland News